Not The Maids review, ‘The Beauty of Documentary Theatre Art’ by Dr. Elaine Chan, published in The Hong Kong Economic Journal on 11/10/2017.
Not The Maids Review: ‘Documentary Theatre Arts’ – by Dr Elaine K. M. Chan, Published on 11/10/2017 in the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
Produced by We Draman as part of the cultural ambassador scheme, Cardboard Dreams is a documentary theatre performance for the community, about the stories and situation of the elderly in Hong Kong. Concept/Direction/Dramaturgy by Rooftop’s Michelle Li, with puppetry and movement direction by Ivor Houlker. This is our second cultural ambassador scheme performance produced by We Draman, after last year’s Building with Bamboo.
Performance Times and Locations
This show follows on from Not The Maids earlier in the year, continuing in our work on documentary theatre. With Cardboard Dreams we also began from arranging interviews, transcribing them, and then working with the actors to create the text of the show from a combination of their own experiences (or interviews with their family/parents) and the verbatim texts we gathered. Sometimes actors tell their own stories about how they relate to the topic, as well as taking on the roles of interviewees, either the elderly themselves, or care workers, or their relatives.
The materials we worked with (cardboard) also reflect an aspect of the elderly poor in Hong Kong that is very particular to this place, the collection of cardboard for the small amount of money that can be made by turning it in for recycling. Puppetry also enables us to move beyond a realistic representation of people in this situation, to a more universal one consistent with the materials of the show.
Official Banner for Cardboard Dreams
Leaving the City…
When we train or work as performers, usually we’re coming in off the street or MTR into a studio space a few times a week. We cannot help but be influenced by our environment, and what we create becomes a product of the city rather than a reflection on it. By leaving the city behind and working in a natural environment, we can fully commit to performance training and regain the essential parts of our humanity that are being lost through the overcrowding and technology we are adapting to. Theatre in Nature 2017 is the third in our annual series of training camps in the rural areas of Hong Kong.
This idea is one that has many precedents in the work of other companies and theatre practitioners. Jacques Copeau took his actors to the country outside Paris to train as early as 1913, to find a method of training to improve their physical dexterity, authenticity and ability to work in harmony. Most famously perhaps, Jerzy Grotowski moved from the city of Wrocław to a remote forest base in 1972 to pursue his own paratheatrical experiments. When Gardzienice was established in 1977 by one of Grotowski’s former collaborators, Staniewski, the company took the name of the tiny Polish village where they are based, creating and performing theatre in this ‘natural environment.’ Tadashi Suzuki relocated his company to the village of Toga in 1976, and there are other modern examples in Asia, such as Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and U-theatre.
Our main instructor – Ivor’s performance and movement training is influenced by these groups, and in particular his time living, training and performing with Gardzienice. His approach involves site-specific performance techniques and demanding physical training that heightens the actor’s awareness of self, others, and our environment. Alongside methods from European theatre practitioners, Ivor incorporates training from his background in tai chi.
Another main instructor – Billy’s movement training focuses on the psycho-physical process of acting, and methods of building an ensemble. He focuses on helping actors to develop the body’s awareness, and understanding the universal states of groups and individuals is as important as training one’s imagination and observation. This enables actors to bring transformation through their outward expressions of inner intents. Billy is passionate about sharing a variety of methods and the work of different movement practitioners. Billy is also a certified yoga instructor, and he includes yoga training for actors as a way of balancing the physical, psychological and mental bodies and enhancing one’s self-realisation.
Theatre in Nature Camp Details
- Date: 1-4/10/2017 (Sun-Wed)
- Location: Sai Kung Bradbury Hall, hiking trails and surrounding beaches
- Gathering time & venue: 12 noon, 1st October @ Sai Kung Town Centre
- Finish time & venue: 3pm, 4th October @ Wong Shek Pier
- Fee: $2,100
- Quota: 8-10
- Main Instructors: Ivor Houlker, Billy Sy
- Course Content: Sunrise Yoga, Sunset Run, Tai-Chi in the water, Mutuality Training, Rhythm work, ‘Psychophysical’ Actor Training, Site-specific performance making, Polyphonic singing
- Suitable for: People who have experience in theatre, movement or performance, and have a reasonable level of physical fitness. (Professionally trained theatre practitioners will be considered first)
* This training programme will be conducted in Cantonese and English.
Notes for Applicants
- Applicants should evaluate their own physical condition for joining this programme.
- Participants will have to help carrying a small amount of food and tools.
- Participants will take turns to prepare meals and clean up.
- Meals will be vegetarian, one meat dish will be provided per meal for those who request it.
- Mobile internet signal is weak on site, but it has phone reception, and is equipped with shower and toilet facilities.
Application and Enquiries
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos from Theatre in Nature 2017
With an original mobile app, giving you the freedom to choose how to experience the show.
The Lost Shoreline…
There is a long lost shoreline in Yau Ma Tei, which has born witness to the history of the city. We reclaimed the sea in pursuit of development. Time passed, and the once vibrant port is now facing redevelopment. While terms like ‘demolition,’ ‘preservation,’ ‘reconstruction’ and ‘activation’ are mentioned, the shoreline has been pushed ever forward. Under the current of development, who is being left behind? Urban renewal, it is not always just the shoreline which is being lost…
An unprecedented theatre experience
To promote the renewal plan for the old Yau Ma Tei district, a consultant firm has been commissioned to create an app called HK5D, to let the stakeholders understand the 5D development plan through an on site audio guide.
This app is an original creation which breaks the linear rules of an audio guided tour. Participants can freely choose their walk according to the map and annotations on the map in the app. They will also have to explore the physical space to search for information needed. The app will also notify them of different live events, allowing the participants to choose their own programme to join, leading to a self-constructed theatre experience. In this programme, your phone will lead you to submerge in the lost ocean, people and events from history, to experience the gains and losses of city development.
22/3-2/4/2017 7:45pm（No show on Monday)
Place: Yau Ma Tei, Outside Kubrick
H2, Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei
*Full time students and the elderly
Tickets now available on Art-mate
- Audience members should bring their own smartphone (iOS 8.0 or above / Android 4.0 or above) and headphones. Please make sure your phone is sufficiently charged.
- The programme will require cellphone data; please make sure your phone has mobile internet and sufficient data.
- The programme is around 2 hours, the audience will need to be able to stand and walk.
- Because of the need to walk alone in the street, this program is only suitable for audience aged 18 or over.
Michelle Li Ng King Lung Chiu Chin Hei Larry Ng* Sung Boon Ho^
App Design and Writing
Tickets or Programme Enquiries
Produced by： Rooftop Productions
Venue Support：Kubrick, Yes Inn
Hong Kong has nearly 350,000 foreign domestic workers. On Sundays you can see them in public squares and parks; a street view unique to this city. These ‘maids’ flew from their homes to work in another home. Each week they work for six days performing household chores, taking care of children and the elderly. For one day a week, they are guitarists, photographers, rugby players… themselves.
‘Maid’, ‘Helper’, ‘Foreign Domestic Worker’… Apart from these names, how much do we really understand ‘them’?
Ivor Houlker, Michelle Li
Karen C. Siu, Isabella Leung, Michelle Li, Russell Terre Aranza
In English and Cantonese, surtitled in both languages
In September, we were invited to hold two days of Chinese Puppetry workshops at the ESF Drama Conference at West Island School. These workshops introduced four types of traditional Chinese puppetry, teaching students the basics of manipulation for each type of puppet, as well as the history and traditional uses of these types of puppet. We also explored the principles of puppetry, and how the traditional skills of puppetry can be integrated into contemporary theatre, and why they are still relevant today.
Chinese Puppetry Workshops
The four types of traditional Chinese puppet introduced:
Shadow puppets are traditionally made of goat or cow skin, although modern performances sometimes use plastics. Puppets are controlled by wooden or bamboo rods, which are held perpendicular to the screen. The screen is illuminated from behind by a soft light source close to the screen, which allows the colours of the puppets to show, without casting shadows from the performers or the rods.
Depending on the number of rods and the complexity of the movement of a puppet, more than one person may manipulate a single puppet at the same time. For example, some animal puppets may have five or more rods, requiring at least two people to operate it. However, it is also possible for one person to operate two puppets at the same time, for example, making them fight. There are techniques for holding more than one rod in the same hand while still moving them independently, and being able to control many rods with detailed independent movement is one of the biggest challenges in shadow puppetry.
String puppets are perhaps the most challenging type of puppet to master, requiring a significant amount of strength as well as precision to control many strings simultaneously. These differ from Western marionettes in that all strings are attached to a simple ‘paddle’, with movement of the puppet’s arms and legs achieved through directly manipulating strings rather than rocking the paddle itself (which only directly affects the puppet’s head). Depending on their complexity, these puppets have around 20 strings, and detailed articulation of the joints, allowing them to flex their fingers and even pick up and grab objects. Strings are held in different configurations between the puppeteer’s fingers, and must be frequently switched around in order to achieve different ways of walking or moving. One hand must also always be holding the paddle, so that it is necessary to hold the full weight of the puppet in one hand while simultaneously flexing the fingers of that hand to control the strings.
This type of puppet is occasionally performed with the puppeteer behind a stage as in more traditional Western marionette theatres, but the most impressive displays of this type are done in a three dimensional stage with the puppeteer fully visible. The movement of this string puppets is especially graceful, circular and flowing.
Hand puppets, also known as glove puppets or even bag puppets, are worn on the puppeteer’s hands, with the thumb in one arm, the index finger in the head, and the other three fingers inside the other arm. They are often performed behind a screen which reaches up to head height, and the puppeteer holds their arms above their head in order to perform. Puppets sometimes have additional control rods attached to one of the hands in order to achieve special tricks or effects: spinning sticks, plates, or fans for example. This is then manipulated by the puppeteer’s second hand.
Puppets of this type are particularly effective in fighting, because of the fast movement due to being directly manipulated by the hands. Weapons can be placed in puppets’ hands, with sticks often attached on one hand and passing loosely through the second hand in order to enable detailed movement. Fighting is often done by one performer using two hands to fight one another, since the synchronisation between the two can be particularly effective.
Rod puppets can be performed either behind a screen in a similar way to hand puppets, or in a three dimensional space in a similar way to string puppets. One hand holds a central wooden rod which goes inside the body and up to the head, while the other hand controls both of the puppet’s hands via thinner metal rods. In some (Southern) styles of Chinese puppetry, these rods are contained within the body, but more often they are outside and fully visible. The central rod within the body usually has additional controls which can tilt the head independently, and even move the eyes and mouth. The rods attached to the hands sometimes have controls to articulate the puppet’s fingers.
To perform this style of puppet with the puppeteer visible, it is important to be able to move in a way which is coherent with the puppet’s own movement. For example, the performance of traditional dances or Chinese opera pieces should be treated as though the puppeteer’s body is an extension of the puppet, with stylized leg movement appropriate to the genre. Puppets often have long flowing sleeves, allowing for extended graceful movement of the arms, as well as highlighting their movement through space.
Ivor Houlker studied traditional Chinese puppetry with Master Wong Fai in Hong Kong, as well as studying Western and contemporary puppetry at DAMU in Prague. Ivor has included puppetry as a technique in contemporary theatre since 2010, as well as participating in more traditional puppet performances.
In Hong Kong, for Rooftop Productions, Ivor developed the puppetry in A Series of Unexpected Events and recently Milk and Honey, which made use of the manipulation of found objects in a form inspired by Tadeusz Kantor. For We Draman, Ivor created the puppetry in Building with Bamboo, and for the Sidekick Project performed in The Puppet Whisperers.
The act of singing has been a part of theatre since the dithyramb in ancient Greece, but the advent of Musical Theatre as a genre in the 19th century meant that the use of singing in theatre became associated with one type of show, with conventions of staging, structure, and content. By using the term Song Theatre we hope to reclaim live singing for use in experimental theatre forms, mixing different traditions to create something new.
This course will introduce what song theatre is, where it has come from and how to understand it as a contemporary theatre genre. To do this we will take a practical approach, learning and singing traditional polyphonic songs from different cultures around the world and then finding ways to use them in performance. The way we learn these songs is through listening and repetition, just as it is taught traditionally. Thsoere is no need to be able to read music. After learning the songs, we will explore different ways to put them in a theatrical setting, using techniques from devising theatre and physical theatre. As well as experiencing the practical aspects of song theatre in class, we will also provide notes and video references for you to learn more about the history and development of ‘Song Theatre.’
Song Theatre Course Details
Dates: 3/12, 4/12, 10/12, 11/12, 17/12, 18/12/2016 (Saturdays & Sundays, 6 sessions)
Venue: We Draman Studio (3/F, Cheong Tai Industrial Building, 16 Tai Yau Street, San Po Kong)
Quota: 16 participants
Tutors: Michelle Li, Ivor Houlker
This programme is conducted in Cantonese＆ English.
Discount 1: Full time students – $500 off (fee: $1,000), not available when quota is full. *
Discount 2: Former students will get a10% discount (fee: $1,350)*
*These discounts may not be used together.
About Rooftop Productions
Rooftop Productions was founded by Ivor Houlker and Michelle Li in 2014. We work in and around theatre in Hong Kong, promoting contemporary multidisciplinary ideas about theatre performance, training and multimedia. Our site-specific theatre work The Beautiful Ones was awarded for ‘Outstanding Effect’ and our founders were nominated in the ‘Best Director’ category for the same show in The 8th Hong Kong Theatre Libre.
Michelle Li is the founder and co-artistic director of Rooftop Productions. She holds an MA in Performance Making from Goldsmiths, University of London, and BA in English Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has returned to Hong Kong to develop her work as a multidisciplinary theatre artist. Apart from making her own work, she is also a theatre director, performer, singer and theatre educator. Recent local works include: Rooftop Productions Milk and Honey, The Beautiful Ones, A Series of Unexpected Events; Hong Kong Arts Festival Danz Up. Her overseas works include: Festa Farina e Forca (Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa, Palermo, Sicily), Ch-ch-ch-changes (London, UK), Making a Difference (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK), Beware (Helen Chadwick Song Theatre, UK).
Ivor Houlker is the founder and co-artistic director of Rooftop Productions, having relocated from London to Hong Kong in 2014. Ivor trained as a multidisciplinary performer, theatre artist and musician. Ivor works internationally as a director, actor, musician, writer and all-round theatre artist. He specialises in physical theatre and site-specific performances, involving live original music/sound, movement, integrated multimedia, installation, and developing new forms of audience-performer relationship. Ivor’s work has created and performed theatre work in London, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, Brighton, Prague, Palermo, Epidaurus, Wrocław, Warsaw and Lublin.
To enquire about the course, please contact Miss Michelle Li (9231 9196) or email to email@example.com