Backstage with Tang Shu-wing's revenge masterpiece, Jiang Yuxia

Monday May 21, 2012 3
Backstage with Tang Shu-wing’s revenge masterpiece
By Jiang Yuxia
even actors, lit by spotlights and all
dressed in black sit solemnly on
the bare stage, each taking turns to
narrate a story of an ancient and bloody
revenge penned some 400 years ago.
They’re telling the story of Titus
Andronicus 2.0, the critically acclaimed
rework of Shakespeare’s play by Tang
Shu-Wing due to hit Beijing as part of the
third Nanluoguxiang Theater Festival this
Based on Shakespeare’s first tragedy,
widely regarded as the most graphically
violent, the play tells of the bloody cycle
of revenge instigated by Roman general Titus, against his conquered enemy
Tamora, queen of the Goths.
The play should be heavy on physical
interaction and brutal violence, and is normally performed with a supporting cast of
special effects.
Yet for Hong Kong director Tang,
a long time advocate of minimalistic
theater, nothing on the stage could
ever be more important than the people,
and it’s their energy and exchange with
the audience that lays the foundation for
the play. Nothing is allowed on the stage
except the seven actors, and seven chairs.
“Minimalism is an attitude towards
life,” said Tang, who wants to refine
theater to what he considers the most
important parts.
“This wisdom and attitude can be applied to the process of artistic creation. I
always ask, what are the most important
things on stage? In Titus Andronicus 2.0,
the most important things are the seven
actors, the seven chairs and a live musician, nothing else,” he added.
Tang’s first interpretation of the play
debuted at the 2008 Hong Kong Arts
Festival, 12 actors without props or music,
performed their parts to the crowd. It
was dubbed an “emotionally exhausting
experience,” by Hong Kong critic Cheung
Ping-kuen, in a paper he wrote on Hong
Kong’s theater scene. The review encouraged Tang to rework for the 2.0
“The [actors’] bodies and the
already existing facilities of the theater
were a vehicle for creation,” added
Tang. “Version 2.0 is a step on from that
and explores the physical language and
art of acting. Whether the subject involves
violence or not is irrelevant.”
A law student who fell in love with
theater in his second year of university,
Tang went on to study performing arts at
the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris
and became one of Hong Kong’s most
prominent stage directors.
He has directed over 35 productions
including King Arthur, Phaedra, and
Hamlet. Within his list, Tang has also directed operas, dances and other dramatic
productions. His reputation for minimalism, using very little other than the
performers, has become his glory.
“The solid physical movements are
just part of the whole expression of the
play and are no more or less difficult to
carry off than other body language or
vocal techniques,” added Tang. “The most
difficult part is to explore, select, organize
and structure all these elements.”
In his latest productions, the scenes of
violence are entirely at the mercy of his
cast of seven and their chairs, and most
strikingly, victim and perpetrator rarely
come into any physical contact. A skilled
control of their voices, breathing, gestures
and facial expressions are all essential
Tang claims.
“In working on theater, I have discovered that this art form is the most direct
and total expression of all that a human
being is,” said Tang. “The more I do
theater, the more I become spiritual. I am
clear that the purpose of life is self realization. Theater just confirms this belief.”
When: May 26-28, 7:30 pm
Where: No.8-2, Dongdan Santiao, Dongcheng
Admission: 80 yuan, 40 yuan for students
Contact: 8404-9981
In Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles
Transient children Photo:
Courtesy of Today Art Museum
Transient children@ Today
Art Museum
The Today Art Museum launched a
children’s art education project last
Saturday, in honor of the upcoming Children’s Day. The exhibition,
“Our Diary of Growth,” features
works including paintings, clay
sculptures, calligraphy, cartoons
and photographs by children from
migrant families.
When: until May 30
Where: Today Art Museum, 3/F,
No. 1 Exhibition Hall, 32 Baiziwan
Road, Chaoyang district
Admission: Free
Contact: 5876-0600 or visit www.
Ancient Chinese paintings
collected by Deng Tuo @
National Art Museum of
The exhibition mainly showcases
paintings by artists from the Ming
Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing
Dynasty (1644-1911). Chinese renowned journalist Deng Tuo, who
died in 1966, donated the paintings
to the museum.
When: Until May 23
Where: Wusi Dajie, Dongcheng
Tickets: Free
Contact: 6400-1476
Shout exhibition @ Nine Art
Chinese artist Deng Zhong is
exhibiting his latest installation at
Nine Art Space. Deng, hopes to express his thoughts about everyday
life and attitudes towards reality.
When: Until June 9
Where: Nine Art Space, 798 Art
Tickets: Free
Research of lost time: Ye
Funa Installation and Video
Exhibition@ Dialogue Space
Artist Ye Funa has taken old family
photos and recreated them using
the same scenery and background,
but swapped the people with current images of the same family.
When: Until June 27
Tickets: Free
Contact: 5876-9392
Global Times
Tang Shu-Wing’s reputation for
minimal props is famous. Photo:
Courtesy of Tang Shu-Wing
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