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Some Rehearsal Shots from Cardboard Dreams

We finished rehearsals for Cardboard Dreams just before we set off for this year’s Theatre in Nature camp. There are still a couple of performances left on the 14th and 15th – details on the Cardboard Dreams page.

Rehearsals in We Draman Black Box Studio

Detail of the Scenography

Very cool cardboard set by Vanessa Suen Wing Kwan.

Theatre in Nature Photos from 2017

That’s the end of Theatre in Nature for another year. It’s our second time based at Bradbury Hall, but it was a bit less peaceful this year because of the public holiday. Next year we might have to pick a working week, so look out for our announcement.

Three Weeks Until Not The Maids

The performance of Not The Maids is only 3 weeks away! We are going through different texts every day, and beneath the stories from our interviewees, finding systems, society, and humanity.
3 shows only, grab your tickets now!

In Cantonese and English, surtitled in both languages
Tickets: https://ticket.urbtix.hk/internet/zh_TW/eventDetail/32857
$180*
* Please click the above link for discount details.
11/8/2017 8pm, 12/8/2017 8pm, 13/8/2017 3pm

Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre
Part of ‘Theatre and Society: Documentary Theatre Festival – Documentary Theatre Showcase’ by Pants Theatre Production.

Not The Maids Cast Photos

Not The Maids will be performed by: Karen C. Siu, Isabella Leung, Michelle Li and Russell Terre Aranza.

Some behind the scenes to prove the white bits aren’t photoshopped:

Milk and Honey Wins Outstanding Effect Award

We are very happy to announce that Milk and Honey has won the award for ‘Outstanding Effect’ in the 9th Hong Kong Theatre Libre, thanks a lot to our team again for their effort, and also to all the objects and fruits sacrificed in the name of this show. We also must thank 101arts for organising the awards and for supporting and attending our shows. The full article with the list of winners is available on their site.

Objects and Photos from Milk and Honey

Lost Shoreline Shoot (Behind the Scenes)

Finally sharing something about how we shot the Lost Shoreline photos. There was very little photoshop involved and instead we simply stuck our heads in a fish tank that we happened to have. I say simply, but as usual these things have a way of being more difficult than they originally seem.

Testing the setup

Michelle and I went to test the setup a few days before the shoot with the actors, to make sure we had a plan. The fish tank was placed on a large glass panel on top of four stools. This was so that there would be light coming up from underneath the tank. I expected reflections to be a bigger problem, but by keeping the light sources limited to directly behind and beneath the tank, and keeping the camera pointed perpendicular to the glass, this was never a problem. There is a flash underneath a round reflector used as a diffusor slightly behind the tank giving the edge light. There is a flash on the back wall directly behind the head of the actor which will help show the texture of the water. There is tracing paper underneath the tank to act as another diffusor and a flash directly underneath that as well at a lower power, which acts as a fill light for the front side of the face. To check the focus / consistency and let everyone see more easily, we shot tethered on a tripod using Capture One.

Add water…

OK, we didn’t test it with water, but in theory it would be fine. The back light needed tuning down a lot after adding the water but otherwise the lighting worked. The difficult thing turned out to be actually sticking one’s head in a fish tank and staying there with one’s eyes open long enough to be photographed.

I had expected the sensation to be not particularly dissimilar to swimming underwater. It was totally dissimilar. Unfortunately, I was the last one to be photographed, so I had no idea why everyone else was finding it so difficult to do. It was very unpleasant. Partly, the water was cold. Partly, it took some effort to get one’s head completely submerged because it has a tendency to float. And it was very awkward to get it in the tank while leaning over the side without the rest of your body getting in the shot. And without the rest of your body being submerged, having your head underwater is considerably more panic-inducing. We live and learn.

Most of the shots did not turn out exactly like the finished product… instead of having lots of usable shots, we really just aimed for one each and still took a long time. Hair was often a problem, and had to be dried a bit between each shot in order not to look too dead and stupid. There was also the inconvenience of having to breathe and recover a bit between shots. Getting the angle right was also very difficult and unintuitive. Once you stick your head in a fish tank sideways you tend to lose some sense of direction.

When it was time for me to actually be photographed I realised how difficult it was and put a coin in bottom of the tank so I could aim my face at it. I should have thought of this much sooner.

Video evidence…

Hei’s frog impression. This would have made for a very different poster image. This one is unedited, and obviously there’s a bit of colour editing in the final version, but the rest is pretty real.

Lost Shoreline Final Images

Special thanks to Alfie Leung, graphic designer, photographer of Ivor’s head, fish tank keeper, light reflector and all-round excellent person. We also really have to thank our actors for putting up with all this sh… shenanigans.

Making App-based Theatre

Our first attempt at basing a show around the use of a mobile phone app (app-based theatre) was with The Beautiful Ones, whose first half was an app-based audio guide with some very basic multiple choice capabilities. Lost Shoreline, more than a year later, relied on an app for the whole show to function, with significantly more complex interaction and structure. In the process of making these two shows we’ve come a long way in understanding what’s possible, so we can really start to take advantage of new possibilities for the theatre.

Why use an app?

For both of these shows, the app was used to solve problems. One of the simpler problems it solves is hardware costs; it’s like having everyone in the audience bring a computer for you to use. Of course, this alone is not really enough to justify it if you could use a simpler means. If your only requirement is to play a sequence of audio tracks, you could use mp3 players and save a considerable amount of time and effort in getting an app to do the same thing. If your only requirement is to let a few people vote anonymously, you could give them some buttons like this…

A big problem that we are using apps to try and solve is interactivity. Interactivity in the theatre tends to be limited in scope, because the number of audience members who can genuinely ‘interact’ simultaneously is limited to the number of performers/crew. Other types of ‘technical’ interactivity, such as radio voting systems (e.g. Ontroerend Goed’s Fight Night) allow you to go beyond this limitation, but the limitation then becomes the imagination of the creators of the system itself, and in this case there is only a single way to interact: a simple multiple choice question which can be selected by number at the time it is announced.

Another possibility is to make use of a pre-existing app (such as a messaging app like WhatsApp) to facilitate interaction.
While it might not seem as polished, this enables many more new ways of interacting, connecting audience members to one another and creating more game-like options, as well as things like image/audio transfer. This is a great solution in some ways, because it is free, reliable and secure, not to mention easy to set up without any programming knowledge. The limitation of this is that it still has to be managed manually, and we come back to the limitation of how many interactions one performer can deal with simultaneously.

To go further than this the app itself needs to deal with certain kinds of logic specific to the show, managing what to do at certain times or in the event of certain combinations of situations. This means the app can take on the role of dealing with all basic interactions and timing and facilitating distribution of ‘real’ performers’ interactions, multiplying the amount of interaction that is possible… but this is going to require a custom-built app.

From The Beautiful Ones to Lost Shoreline, App-based Theatre

To find ways of storytelling using programming, we were inspired very much by the mechanics of ‘choose your own adventure’ and RPG computer games. The Beautiful Ones was the beginning of this idea, building a mechanic that offered very basic multiple choice options, a bit like a more linear old-fashioned RPG. Lost Shoreline was an evolution from this in much the same way as RPGs have evolved to be less linear, with the popularity of the ‘open world’ design. The freedom of the form makes storytelling much more challenging, increasing the amount of content that must be created, as well as multiplying the possibilities for how different players/participants might experience what you create. In spite of the challenges, we decided this direction was more appropriate to the content of Lost Shoreline, which drew inspiration from post-structuralism and historiographic metafiction.

To be continued in Part 2: The Development of Lost Shoreline

Milk and Honey Nominations

The 9th Hong Kong Theatre Libre nominations have been announced, and we’re very happy to find that our collaborative work with Billy Sy “Milk and Honey” is nominated for:
Best Director – Ivor Houlker, Billy Sy
Best Stage Effects

We’re delighted to get these nominations, and we’d like to thank our whole team, and the audience for their support! Please carry on supporting us and other small local theatre companies / artists to keep making the field more vibrant.