Hong Kong

Richard III | Schaubühne Berlin

Hong Kong Cultural Centre | December 2016

Thomas Ostermeier’s theatrical career began with the radical ‘in-yer-face’ style, staging works by Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Kane with violent intimacy. His recent work with the Schaubühne has gravitated towards more classical texts such as Ibsen and Shakespeare and older patrons are no longer in danger of fainting during performances. It would be all too easy to accuse him (as he once accused older directors) of becoming irrelevant, and to judge Richard III as less radical in the context of his earlier work. I think this would be an unfair interpretation, especially given Ostermeier’s evident self-awareness about the contradictions within institutionalised theatre. His Richard III is politically charged and makes a strong point without making crass direct references to current events. This is as relevant an interpretation of the play as I have seen; perhaps not as viscerally shocking as we might expect, but shocking in the way we are seduced by it.

La voix humaine | Toneelgroep Amsterdam

HK City Hall Theatre (HK Rep International Black Box Festival 2016) | April 2016

Hong Kong Rep’s Black Box Festival kicks off without a hint of irony, presenting a show on City Hall’s proscenium stage: an adaptation of Cocteau’s monodrama, La voix humaine, directed by the internationally renowned Ivo van Hove. It is an enormous privilege to see van Hove’s work presented here in Hong Kong, especially for those in the theatre field (who seemed to comprise the majority of the audience.)

Van Hove’s choice of material appears to echo Cocteau’s own choice in writing the original piece: an attempt to return to the simplicity and purity of a performer in front of an audience. Van Hove mentions in the programme:

Someone Else (Hong Kong Version) | Ant Hampton

West Kowloon Cultural District | February - March 2016

White Rubble on a White Chair

Being among the audience in Ant Hampton’s autoteatro piece Someone Else (Hong Kong Version) was a detached experience. For such a particular theatre form that opens up the boundaries between real and staged experience for the audience, there should be more to take away than a smartphone app.

The term autoteatro consists of the words “auto”(as in “automobile” and “automatic”) and “teatro”(“theatre” in Spanish/Italian etc.). The use of this term to describe this form of theatre first appeared in 2007 under the title Etiquette, created by Ant Hampton and Silvia Mercuriali (Rotozaza). In Hampton’s own words:

Invisible Men | Hong Kong Repertory Theatre

HK Rep Black Box Theatre | April 2016

Please sign here for your delivery of an insignificant life

For the Chinese version of this article, please go to IATC.

At the place I work, we get three or four large bottles of drinking water delivered weekly. They get delivered just outside our office’s back door the day after my colleague makes the weekly order. The door isn’t very soundproof, so occasionally I hear the cling-clang of the plastic bottles and cargo lift groaning as they come and go – but never the noise of the delivery guy. There are often express packages delivered to the office too. But again, they remain anonymous to me; even those few faces which keep reoccurring. Goods ordered from a distance need delivering, but consumers only see the objects they buy instead of the hands delivering them, let alone the owner of those pairs of overworked hands. Such a two-way reification in which objects are subjectified while subjects are objectified is the reality depicted in the recent local production Invisible Men, written by Chan Siu Tung and directed by Chan Wing Chuen.

Electronic City (Director’s Cut) | On-and-On Theatre Workshop

June 2015 | Cattle Depot Theatre, Hong Kong

When rationality and man-made order overwhelm our capacity for control…
When connection and information deform into a suffocating sticky web that we can hardly bear…
Every individual collapses into a critical mass of mechanisation and a black hole of desire…
And the outlines that define such “individuals” become only grotesque fluctuations in the system…

Such is the depiction of our modern digitalized society in the mad world of Electronic City (Director’s Cut). In this Falk Richter play, philosophical discussion and allegation appear nakedly, as if some conference on cultural criticism had wandered into the Cattle Depot Theatre. But it is not at all out of place here: the whole play tries to find resonance between these seemingly scholarly and distant ideas and its audience in a Theatre-of-Cruelty exhaustive way, in the hope of distilling its enervating representation of the humming, hustling hubbub of our current digitalized world and pushing it to the extreme.


“Alone” | Hong Kong Repertory Theatre

July 2015 | Hong Kong Repertory Theatre Black Box

I didn’t expect it to be a comedy…

“Alone” is a beautiful production, which magically and organically transformed the HK Rep Black Box Theatre into a… I was about to say “brain,” because of its impressive spectacle, which was also throbbing with freshness and blood. The two actors were enough to occupy the whole stage with their virtuosity and energy, combined with masterful ease. A bare stage, minimal props; but with the wonderfully executed pacing, the one and half hours’ running time seemed to pass without my noticing.

Ravens, We Shall Load Bullets | Yukio Ninagawa

November 2014 | Kwai Tsing Theatre

My review for Ravens, We Shall Load Bullets will be fairly brief, because I have only one criticism to offer: the theatre was nowhere near full. There has clearly been some failure in marketing or education, because this is best piece of international work I have seen here so far, and it is so perfectly relevant to Hong Kong right now that it deserves to be sold out. It seems that in spite of Hong Kong’s relative proximity to Japan, Ninagawa isn’t as famous here as in Europe.

Watch Me Fall | Action Hero

October 2014 | Kwai Tsing Theatre, Hong Kong, New Vision Arts Festival

With Watch Me Fall, Action Hero do an excellent job of deconstructing the spectacle of risk as entertainment in a way that is playful, funny and painfully human.

James Stenhouse and Gemma Paintin are charming enough to bring us along for the improbable ride of coca cola-based daredevilry, using text that apparently comes from a mix of real interviews with daredevils, Chuck Yeager, president’s speeches, Mexican wrestling matches, drag races and so on. When we enter we’re given cans of coke and disposable cameras. The cameras are a big hit in Hong Kong, and the amateur photographers in the audience are eagerly trying to photograph the ‘big’ moments. It’s a great start and gets us involved and invested in the performance.

Attempts on Her Life | Hong Kong Rep

July 2014 | City Hall, Hong Kong

After the last performance I reviewed by Hong Kong Repertory Theatre (Wait Until Dark) it is hard to imagine anything more different than this ambitious attempt at Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life. In contrast to the painfully conservative naturalism of Wait Until Dark, Attempts on Her Life comes across as genuinely progressive in the context of Hong Kong’s theatrical landscape.

The text is challenging and fractured; a collection of prose-poem vignettes about an elusive Anne/Ania/Annie/Annushka (etc.) who can be anything from a terrorist to a type of car. It is easy to interpret it as a criticism of the media’s power of manipulation of an image, but it is more than that. The mutliplicity of stories being told reflects the postmodernist approach to narrative, and it deconstructs the notion of identity as well as image, taking cues from Baudrillard. Further, from a postmodernist perspective, to perform this is a rejection of the need for the arc of Aristotelian drama in the theatre; an enormous step forward for Hong Kong. The programme mentions Hans-Thies Lehmann, Heiner Müller (spelt wrong), Robert Wilson, Tadeusz Kantor, Richard Schechner (spelt wrong), The Wooster Group and Forced Entertainment; it is clear that they have done their research (if not their proofreading) and their hearts are in the right place to make something innovative and postdramatic.

嘈之家閉 | Applied Drama Centre (with Adrian Jackson)

June 2014 | Applied Drama Centre BGCA, Hong Kong

I have never had the chance to see Adrian Jackson’s work (founder-director of Cardboard Citizens) in the UK, so I was intrigued to go to a performance directed by him here in Hong Kong (he is credited as Director/Advisor in the programme). I should make clear that this was one of two ‘preview’ shows in which Adrian would be acting as Joker (the facilitator in the context of forum theatre). Sorry that there is no English title of the show: it’s apparently a pun because it sounds like 嘈之巴閉 (you’re noisy) but the 巴 (baa) is changed to 家 (gaa) meaning family.