Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Interview: Beverly Yuen, 'A Walk into the Mandala" - 8 and 9 Dec 2017

Alvin Koh interviews Beverly Yuen, a veteran of the physical theatre scene and director of the newly formed Grain Performance and Research Lab. Here, we discussed the upcoming production A Walk into the Mandala. A highlight of the production is the use of brown rice to create beautiful images onstage. Here, Beverly and Alvin discuss what inspired the piece and what we audiences can expect from it.

Beverly Yuen rocking a purple Coach bag

The Mad Scene: Can you tell us about your present work, A Walk into the Mandala? What is it about?

Beverly Yuen: It is about mandala, and yet it is not about mandala. It is about who we are, living in a hectic world. It is about what we do and how we act in order to breathe, and in order to stay alive.

The Mad Scene: But why is “mandala” the focus of the play?

Beverly Yuen: Mandala, in the show, is a symbol for contemplation about the state of being we are in today, and how it feels like living in today’s society. Everything is almost fast forwarded. We can almost foresee the “future” and at the same time, we can’t. There is a huge dilemma of being here. We know, and yet we... don’t know.

As a symbol, the Mandala can be found in cultures across the world, from the swirling Dervish dances of Sufi monks to Hindu Rangoli floor paintings, and European stained glassworks. In Tibetan culture, the mandala aids concentration. The late psychoanalyst Carl G Jung believed that the mandala, as an art form, enables one to understand the inner psyche.

The Mad Scene: What is the history and concept behind A Walk into the Mandala? Could you introduce a little about yourself and your theatre background?

Beverly Yuen: I first created Mandala with two other performers in 2003. The preliminary concept of Mandala grew from a 3-hour self-observing silent “rehearsal” session. After the 3 hours, we started to realise that we began to hear our inner voices, as well as the sounds of the urban city when we stopped all external activities and dialogues.

During the session, circular images appeared to me, and suggested a strong sense of cyclic existence. To me, the piece A Walk into the Mandala is about losing our inner voice and belief, and rediscovering them.

I was one of the founding members of the now defunct Theatre OX and was a full-time performer with the troupe from 1995 to 1999. In 1998, together with Theatre OX, I headed to the workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards (Italy) to receive intensive performer training for a year. I founded In Source Theatre (IST) in 2001 and was its Artistic Director from 2001 to 2013. With IST, I produced, created, performed and marketed more than 20 original works locally and internationally. Currently, I am the Artistic Director of Grain Performance and Research Lab.

My arts practice incorporates traditional elements of tai chi, yoga and rituals in contemporary theatre. Contemporary, traditions and Grotowski; these are what Grain Performance and Research Lab stands for.

The Mad Scene: What are the challenges that you have faced when mounting A Walk into the Mandala?

Beverly Yuen: One of the key challenges in the latest rendition of the production is that when I draw the 3-meter-wide rice mandala on stage, I will have my face swaddled, and I will be in heels most of the time throughout the piece while executing taichi and yoga moves!

The Mad Scene: Without giving any spoilers, gives us 2 (or 3 or 4) reasons why we should not miss Mandala?

Beverly Yuen: We are surrounded by people and crowds all the time, and yet we experience a sense of loneliness at times; even when we are alone, we may be too exhausted or fearful to contemplate on our life. Take this opportunity to slow down our footsteps and reflect as the rice mandala develops on stage.

If you want to know what is “physical theatre”, which is beyond “physical”, come to watch A Walk into the Mandala to find out more!

Lastly, if you feel that you are suffocated by your work or life, this is a piece for you. Take time off to identify, empathize and breathe!

More about Grain Performance and Research Lab:

Readers of The Mad Scene can enjoy a 30% discount to the play by applying the promo code “madscene” at

1 comment:

  1. I always love mandala designs. I feel this gives my home a different and unique look. Most of the time I purchase mandala wall tapestry , they are so good in quality and designs are really unique. Also, they do ship worldwide for free. They are really long-lasting and very good in quality.


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