After a long break from blogging, I’m delighted to be back with news of one of our very special 30th Anniversary productions, The Taming of the Shrew. And who better to talk about it than Chair of the School of Drama, Ceri Sherlock, who is directing the interdisciplinary production. Over to you, Ceri!
The Taming of the Shrew Inter School Collaboration
Progress report … notes to self
“Just over half way through the rehearsal period and with performances in exactly a month’s time (May 9th & 10th) this is the moment to take stock. The journey began driven by the old Department of Chinese Opera several years ago but has now linked to the Academy’s 30th Anniversary celebrations involving most of our Schools of Dance, Drama, Music and Theatre and Entertainment Arts. The journey and the creativity and challenge it requires have exponentially increased, together with expectation – no pressure there!
But it remains extraordinarily exciting, interesting and inspiring, demanding many and different challenges in staging and interpretation (and diplomacy).
Achieving a common purpose under a single artistic vision has been essential, as notoriously, creativity and originality, even less innovation, is hard to achieve (more so without sufficient time, resources and cooperative understanding). Artistic preference, taste and expression are unique and as a Director (of stage productions) I know how important it is to create a team but also to lead it, steer it, shape its artistic choices and keep it moving forward.
Time and scheduling are our natural enemies. There is never enough time to create art – Goethe reminds us that “art is long, but life is short” how right he was! – co-ordinating timetables of regular classes and individual Schools’ production times and practices is the challenge. Fortunately, Western production practice in which I am educated is disciplined to be efficient and economic using the best of the time available. It makes for a result but not always for depth and detail. More detail needed – more time for creative exploration!
But working on Shakespeare again is so enriching, and like an education in itself. On the one hand Shakespeare is so direct in story and character but so complex in nuance, meaning and message. The Taming of the Shrew, (not my choice of his plays – far too difficult) is a particularly challenge as it requires a firm hand and a clear interpretation. It can just become a silly ‘battle of the sexes’ romp, enjoyable but ultimately condoning that which Shakespeare puts at the focus of his play – power, status, hierarchy and human ‘civilized’ interaction. It can become a ‘distracting comedy’ rather than the ‘conceit’ or the game/trick that Shakespeare had in mind for his exploration of love, marriage and relationships.
In rehearsals the tendency to comedy is easy and enjoyable, but not quite on the mark. The Chinese Opera sections tend to avoid any seriousness ‘to please the audience’. We need to be clear about why we are doing this play, today!
And artforms – there is a world of difference between the culture of Cantonese Opera and Western Theatre. In my previous imaginings Chinese Theatre is one of the world’s most disciplined and dedicated of theatre practices but I discover that the rigours of a School of Drama rehearsal regime is perhaps even more regimented. But the exposure of both to each other is fruitful and there is a creativity of being alien and a creativity in being “lost in translation”. This is the space of innovation.
At this stage the ‘language of the production’ is forming and defining itself but the challenge of unifying still remains … hybridity (and postmodernity) is eclectic in nature, but should not be diffuse in meaning. Clarify! Simply! Be Consistent! Communicate with the audience, and say something relevant!
My creative collaborators both students and colleagues are being brilliant and patient, adding this production to their extremely busy and very Hong Kong daily and personal schedules.
It is great to be working again with costume designer Mandy Tam, our third collaboration, and to work with Yoki Lai – so creative and imaginative with the setting and the task of bringing together the disparate elements in a contemporary aesthetic that incorporates East and West. But thank goodness I am lucky to be Chair of Drama and can call on my School for support and assistance not least the Director of Movement and Associate Director, the talented Tony Wong and my, rather clever and wonderful Assistant to Director students, Chuen and Donald. But once again I am reminded of my professional life at the highest level, when I work with the Stage Management team from the School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts … where would we be …
But just finishing Act1/Part1 and starting Act2/Part 2 a month before opening cannot breed any complacency – there is so much to do … soooo much to do, and so much detail to be done!
And then there are the holidays … why so many at this time of the year … and in the middle of our production? … even Shakespeare’s Birthday on the 26th of April!
Corragio! We won’t please everyone but it will be darned interesting and highly creative. Keep going forward … to be continued!
Artistic Director of the project
& Chair of the School of Drama