《旋轉,三途川》預覽文章:Fringe Benefits(Winnie Chau)

The inaugural Sidekick Theatre Festival 2009 is the talk of the town among fringe theater enthusiasts. Winnie Chau talks to five groups of theater devotees whose works will feature in the event.

With all the international productions that arrive in Hong Kong each year, it can be easy to forget that our city has its very own flourishing theater scene. In celebration of our local acting community, On & On Theatre Workshop has produced a big-scale homegrown theater event: Sidekick Theatre Festival 2009, where local small theater collectives present their scripts to a judging panel, which picks five outstanding submissions to be performed live onstage. Co-organized by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and the International Association of Art Critics (Hong Kong), the festival aims to nurture young talents and provide guidance and resources to young theater enthusiasts who work as freelance performers.

But rather than the traditional director-led productions, the festival encourages applicants to work in groups of three to take charge of various roles, from sound and visuals to lighting and of course, acting. By the submission deadline in December last year, On & On had received over 50 proposals from theater enthusiasts of varying backgrounds. Here are the five productions that were eventually selected for performance at the Cattle Depot Artist Village for their strong experimental quality and compelling messages.

Tides in Limbo
“Tides in Limbo” is based on director-playwright Fee Chan’s travel journal during a solo trip to Turkey. It follows the story of a young girl, a traveler and a sound researcher, as they embark upon a physically and psychologically challenging journey across a strange terrain. To turn the script into a reality, Chan joined hands with sound artist Edwin Lo and dancer-actor Kwok Ka-yuen, whose job is to instruct the physical movements onstage. Together, the three explore the interaction of sound, movement and text. “We wanted to question whether language is an efficient means to express oneself,” says Chan. To do this, the team disconnected the actors’ dialogue and their movements to explore whether it’s body language or words that we really use to communicate.

Chan believes that there is a lack of rehearsal space for fringe theatre in Hong Kong. “We need space to experiment with props,” says Chan, who is borrowing a vacant flat from an encouraging family member to rehearse. But the team is far from discouraged. “We’re already planning our second run. We feel that although this first run has opened the door for us to explore our potential,” says Kwok.

Jun 19 to Jun 21, 8pm

Alice Dreamosis
Inspired by Susan Sontag’s only published play, “Alice in Bed,” “Alice Dreamosis” is a creative adaptation that borrows elements from “Alice in Wonderland,” replacing western icons with Chinese ones. The play’s fantastical, often absurd storyline is framed in eight scenes, to question what society defines as physically and mentally “normal.”
“Strictly speaking, this is a ‘failed’ script in the conventional sense. It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s what make the play attractive,” says video designer and sometime scriptwriter Adrian Yeung. Director-actor-writer Wu May-bo, on the other hand, thinks Sontag’s scriptwriting style gets down to the essence of communication, and helps to get herself and the audience thinking.

Wu and Yeung are working with choreographer and physical movement instructor Chow Ho-fan to figure out how to narrate this surreal play. “Since we are working with people from different disciplines, it takes time for us to get into the right mode and rhythm,” says Wu, “But that’s exactly the point of this festival. The collaborative spirit and the possibilities these collaborations bring are more important than the final product.”

Jun 26 to Jun 28, 8pm

Moomin Café Episode 1224
Chan Wai-hung, Lic Ng and Remu are self-declared kidults, just like the protagonist of their play. “Moomin Café Episode 1224” takes inspiration from the beloved Finnish-Japanese cartoon Moomin. Set in contemporary Finland, the play is about a “hidden youth” who never leaves his beloved internet café. There, he meets two friends, both of whom resemble Moomin characters Snufkin and Mymble. This character-driven play reflects—without judging—the internet-and fantasy-driven life of many local youngsters nowadays. Chan’s whimsical script is brought to life by illustrator Ng’s role as art director and video artist Remu’s skills as a director, and the team emphasizes that they are trying to strike a balance between art, text and direction in their work.

The three have strong opinions about the survival of local small theatre. “Theatre isn’t yet part of Hong Kong people’s life yet. The scene is very much dominated by overseas productions and big theatre companies,” comments Ng. “While the government is under the impression that they are doing a lot to help, small theater still has a limited audience and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.”

Jul 3 to Jul 5, 8pm

Becoming Phaedra
Yeung Tsz-yan, Jonathan Wong and Lai Yuk-ching are recent graduates from Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. They first met when working on their school’s production of “Phaedra”, and it was there that they were inspired to create their own work based around the classical text. “Becoming Phaedra” is a play-within-a-play about an actress’s struggle in taking up the tragic character Phaedra—an empress who falls in love with her stepson Hippolytus. The new interpretation of the tragedy is a solo piece, narrated by Lai’s character. Visual images feature prominently onstage to help tell the story. “Unlike other director-led plays, where visual effects serve merely as a complement to the script, our visuals are just as significant—if not more so than the spoken word in relating the tale of Phaedra,” says Yeung. “We’re doing something different from what is taught at school,” adds Wong. “In fact, Hong Kong theatre can become something very unique, even more so than that in Taiwan and the mainland, because we are continually absorbing rich cultural elements from all over the world.”

Jul 10 to Jul 12, 8pm

On est heureux à cause de l’amour
“On est heureux à cause de l’amour” is a story by emerging playwright and cultural critic Tse Ngo-sheung. It follows the female protagonist, T, who wakes up one day to find that time has jumped ahead by 12 years. She bumps into her ex-boyfriend H as he is masturbating in the children’s section of a library. The two then decide to develop a salacious blog and indulge in sexual, and often violent, role-playing games.

The provocative script was helmed by Taiwan-educated director Chan Ming-fung and cinema-photographer Wong Hung-fei, and performed by two first-time actors. Chan has adopted an improvisational rehearsal method from Taiwan and applied it to his Hong Kong team. Actors inhabit their characters and the play’s setting, but are encouraged to ad-lib in order to better inhabit their roles. Thankfully his collaborators are on the same wavelength and have embraced this technique that’s rarely used in Hong Kong. “We all grow as an individual in this production,” says Chan.

Compared to Taiwanese theater, which is active in organizing youth drama festivals, Chan believes that Hong Kong doesn’t offer a nourishing environment for small theater groups. “The existing theater companies are very established, while new, small-scale theatre productions tend to be one-off,” he complains. Let’s hope this new festival will go some way in turning that trend around.

Jul 17 to Jul 19, 8pm

Sidekick Theatre Festival 2009, Jun 19-Jul 26, On & On Theatre, Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Rd., To Kwa Wan, www.onandon.org.hk. Tickets at various locations including Kubrick, Shop H2, Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square St., Yau Ma Tei, 2384-8929. All performances are in Cantonese.

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