From an audience’s perspective
Writer: Wang Liansheng
If there were two words to describe the production, it would be “conceptually astounding”. The production far surpassed what is deemed average in a student (and even hall) production. With just a small cast of 9 and an extremely efficient technical team, they brought wonders and created layers in their acting, lighting, sounds and sets. Though at times, I felt the play was a little too long, generally I was kept entertained with both the witty lines and passionate acting from the acting ensemble.
I had been eagerly anticipating KEVII’s Chinese Drama’s production because of the scripts they have chosen over the past decade. Ranging from works by late theatre doyen Kuo Pao Kun (《老九》, performed in 2001) to works by acclaimed Taiwanese playwright Stan Lai (《暗戀桃花源》, performed in 2003, and this year’s 《我和我和他和他》) – these are scripts that many have performed, and it would be interesting to see a student’s interpretation of them, though their show is by no means, a student’s work.
All right, let’s rewind back to 7.30pm. I had just arrived at the University Cultural Centre, but there was already a small crowd of people, eagerly anticipating the show. Xu Nan (the producer) was at the Front-of-House, warmly receiving guests to 《我和我和他和他》, proudly sponsored by ExxonMobil. (On a side-note, can I just mention how gorgeous the key image of the programme booklet and bookmark were? Kudos to the publicity team led by Li Xun)
At around 8pm, the house lights dimmed to a packed house, and the show began. And we beheld the first sight of conceptual awe. The stage had just a double-decker bed on one side, and a two-seater with a small coffee-table on the other side. Plain it may seemed, but it was the brilliant concept of using the stage maskings at the back to signify a passageway by parting them slightly that captivated the audience. And this concept lasted throughout the show, efficiently used for many scenes.
Thus, the story began. In a summary, the story tells of how two characters, Shen Mo and Jian Ru Jing (played by Ying Long and Xinying) had a visit by their past of a decade ago. Two ghostly figures came back (their doppelgangers played by Zi Chen and Li Wen) to remind them of their past, the love they had, and the change they are now compared to their younger days. Shen Mo, a CEO of a company from mainland China, was meeting Jian Ru Jing, the director of a Taiwanese company, in Hong Kong for talks of merger. Unknown to the both of them, they had shared a passionate love story between the two of them a decade ago. Slowly, through the scenes and hints dropped by the two doppelgangers, the story of their past unravels, just as the negotiations between them broke down. They revisited memories of their past once again, but it was not enough for them to salvage the failed love, and the talks of their merger came to a naught as their subordinates had unscrupulously taken over their posts.
Act 1 was like a roller-coaster ride of emotions, from the introductory scene of the characters to the culmination of dramatic tension when scene of the revelation of the relationship between the protagonists came forth.
Throughout Act 1, there were several notable outstanding moments – The sound cues were impeccable. Imagine coordinating visual cues of knocking the doors, and opening it, then closing it for every such action throughout the entire show – the sound team led by Hong Fei must have had countless of practices to coordinate every such cues. I have to say, for the lights, I had this moment of goosebumps nearing the intermission when two blue precise spots came out and the doppelgangers were looking in anguish – It was just, beautiful.
Of course, enough said about the technical aspects. Who could have watched this production and not notice some of the acting gems from KEVII Chinese Drama? I have to admit, some members of the audience were gushing about the acting by some of the members. In particular, one of our KEVII seniors, Wai Kit, shone and stole the show by crafting a memorable personality for every character he portrayed. Wai Kit played the role of a cocky train attendant, a flight attendant, a very diffident bell boy, Hong Kong-accented absent-minded waiter, a struggling violinist busker and a emotional drunkard. Though his characters each appeared in fleeting moments, they were enough to consolidate his skills as an impressive actor. Imagine having to change your accent, your gestures, and your posture with respect to each characters and nailing them in different scenes, all 6 of them throughout scenes of around 20 minutes each – That’s one big feat to accomplish. Kudos to the effort! And if I may add on, his accent for each character was so funny, especially how he tried to be a Mainland Chinese, a Malaysian for one character, then Hong Kong for another, and finally settling to one of silence – The drunkard and the street violinist. He was definitely another one who exemplified the conceptual brilliance of the show.
The protagonists each claimed their stake on stage as well – With the two doppelgangers portraying the young lovebirds with much innocence, they drew you into their story, making you feel their ups-and-downs, highs and lows. At times, I feel it was overly-dramatic, but I guess, considering the script, it would be something tolerable. As for the protagonist, Ying Long was believable as a conniving CEO, yet during the times of revelations, he showed nuances of weaknesses which made his character endearingly humane. Xingying, on the other hand, coupled with that by displaying tenderness underneath that strong veneer. She had glimmers when she shone through as an actress, especially towards the end of Act 1. Though she had shaky moments trying to establish her fort as a demanding company director, she didn’t let it disappoint the crowd, but instead gain her footing as the show went on.
The two subordinates (played by Xiao Xi and Hao Yang) were equally surprisingly when they took over the two companies respectively at the end of the play. Xiao Xi was flirty, and displayed her affections for her director, explicitly making every moves flamboyant and coy. Hao Yang, on the other hand, pretended to be a newbie on the ground, humbly accepting every order of Jian Ru Jing in a rather hilarious way, but took over her role at the end. He contributed to some of the laughs that night with his geeky replies, and somewhat wayward demeanour.
Act 2, after the intermission, followed on to the conceptual brilliance of the first act. In depicting the streets of Hong Kong which the protagonists were roaming to avoid their frustrations, the director chose to use a bright and colourful projection of the streets, projecting it across a translucent white masking, resulting in a multi-layered picture that was aesthetically intriguing. In addition, the simple white lights from the side booms were beautiful in showing this cold and lost inner-soul of the characters as they traipsed down the streets. Those who watched this scene, could not forget the shifting Wong Kar Wai-esque boards with black motifs and wordings that ended up being the backdrop of a bar scene interestingly lit up with a tinge of green and red at the sides.
For me, this Chinese Drama production was slightly long (almost reaching 3 hours) and at times, may have lost some of its dialogue on me (Sometimes, actors were speaking a little too fast), but its aesthetic value was one to be beheld in awe for. The sets were simple, no doubt – mainly structures covered in white, but they were able to create amazing lighting and conceptually redefining direction to more than make up for this. For this, I think the artistic team (especially the director Cao Ying, and her assistants Wang Lu and Su Jie!) had done an awfully good work in creating this piece of work. It was heartening to see Max Yam (an alumnus) helm the role of Artistic Director as well, showing his support and loyalty to our Hall productions.
《我和我和他和他》is definitely an impressive artwork to mark the group’s decade of excellence and a sign for many more to come.