Music, text, performance and image
A work that sweeps across the senses, Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep is a sonic portrait of new music icon Margaret Leng Tan – an evocative exploration of memory, time, control and loss.
New York-based Singaporean pianist Tan forged a path as a major force within the American avant-garde, serving as muse for such giants as John Cage and George Crumb, and transforming the toy piano into a serious instrument. Her stellar career is a touchstone for the past 40 years of experimental musical innovation.
Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep combines spoken and recorded text, projected images and original music for prepared piano, toy piano, toys and percussion by Tan’s long-term collaborator Erik Griswold.
Created by a team of Singaporean and Australian artists, including director Tamara Saulwick, video designer Nick Roux, and dramaturg Kok Heng Leun and performed by Tan, this cross-cultural collaboration is an evocative collage of the forces that have shaped Tan’s life and how music has been both her passion and her refuge.
★★★★★ ‘[Tan] remains a vital and energetic performer, and Dragon Ladies provides us with a rare insight into that which drives her passion as an explorer and pioneer of new musical territories.’ LIMELIGHT
★★★★ ‘The music, composed by collaborator Erik Griswold, is a nod to 20th century minimalism, and is curious, sombre and at times celebratory, synchronous with Tan’s life. She plays with a repetition that is hypnotic. But it’s at the toy piano where she comes alive. At 74, she cuts a figure of elegance, grace and ferocity behind the 51cm instrument where she possesses a power that’s bewildering.’ ARTS HUB
The narrative, the music – by Tan’s long-term collaborator, composer Eric Griswold – and the visualisations all dance with the tension between precision and improvisation, between playfulness and perfectionism.’ PERIL MAGAZINE
‘This one-night-only world premiere performance at Asia TOPA in Melbourne is going to be very difficult to describe because most superlatives would short-change Tan for her display of artistry, grace, style, eloquence, presence and physicality … These aren’t just sounds that entertain. Coupled with her lines of spoken word, they’re sounds that stir emotions and jolt the senses.’ ARTS EQUATOR
‘In a work featuring twelve short musical scores by Erik Griswold, director Tamara Saulwick and Tan have collaborated to devise a uniquely structured, visually stunning choreographic, sound-based performance.’ STAGE WHISPERS
‘The combination of these elements – visual, auditory, occasionally choreographic, with movement like interpretive dance performed by Tan – create a sensory collage, something much deeper and more profound than is usually achieved in theatre … Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep is exemplary in its ability to speak to the audience on many levels and with different sensory experiences. It is the language of music realised. It’s a biography, the life story of the dragon lady, but it is also so much more.’ WITNESS PERFORMANCE
★★★★★ ‘Asia TOPA has created a glorious week for me and it was topped off with the amazing Margaret Leng Tan performing her story at the Playhouse in Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep. Partnering with Chamber Made, Tan and her long time music collaborator, Erik Griswold, took us through a personal journey of music, mental health, and magic.’ WHAT DID SHE THINK
‘Margaret strikes a delicate, compelling balance between play and performance.’ ARTS REVIEW
‘…the audience sat entranced by the surreal, the beautiful, the delicate, the obsessive and simplicity of a world gone mad. And when you think about it, isn’t that the magic of theatre? To push us to think differently about things that we take for granted and don’t question.’ THE TOORAK TIMES
Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep is a Chamber Made and CultureLink Singapore co-production and is co-commissioned by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. This activity received grant funding from the Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is supported by Creative Victoria, Australia Council for the Arts, National Arts Council (Singapore), The SUBSTATION, Playking Foundation, Asia TOPA, Sidney Myer Fund and the Robert Salzer Foundation.
Asia TOPA is a joint initiative of the Sidney Myer Fund and Arts Centre Melbourne and is supported by the Australian and Victorian Governments.