Hong Kong Arts Festival 2013: Theatre highlights

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With the Hong Kong Arts Festival just around the corner, Edmund Lee picks out five international theatre productions you shouldn’t miss.



1. The Animals and Children Took to the Streets

City Hall, Theatre. Thu Feb 21-Sun Feb 24.
The silent clowning, melodramatic acting and a strikingly imaginative visual sense are all part of the charm of this semi-animated theatre show, the second production by British cabaret-theatre company 1927. Loosely inspired by the producers’ visit to Hong Kong’s very own Chungking Mansions many years ago, this darkly comic piece seeks to explore social solutions to urban youth problems through a macabre tale set around a shabby, sprawling boarding house. Since its premiere at London’s avant garde theatre space Battersea Arts Centre in late 2010, the show has been winning acclaim around the world for its topical sensitivity and hauntingly beautiful presentation. So we’re fortunate that it’s finally coming back to where it all began.
 


2. Chinglish

HKAPA, Lyric Theatre. Fri Mar 1-Wed Mar 6.
With a movie adaptation currently being developed by Better Luck Tomorrow director Justin Lin, this six-day Hong Kong run of Chinglish provides a fleeting opportunity for us to get acquainted with David Henry Hwang’s hit cross-cultural comedy before it inevitably gets even bigger. Written in an approximately equal mix of English and Putonghua (and presented here with both English and Chinese surtitles), the mainland China-set story charts the linguistic and cultural divides between an American businessman newly arriving at the city of Guiyang and the local vice-minister of culture who speaks only a little English. The production is staged by two-time Obie-winning director Leigh Silverman, who oversaw both the original production in Chicago and the Broadway version.
 


3. LEO

Cultural Centre, Studio Theatre. Fri Mar 8-Sun Mar 10.
One man, one trick, one hell of a mind-blowing comedy. Presented by the Berlin-based company Circle of Eleven from an original concept by charismatic acrobat Tobias Wegner, Leo spends its entirety in one empty room as its titular protagonist, who’s inexplicably trapped in the space à la Beckett, fights boredom and, well, gravity in this wordless yet thoroughly captivating performance. Visualised with a real-time and full-sized video projection of the performer, which is rotated 90 degrees and takes up half of the stage, the show becomes a reality-bending spectacle as long as you’re willing to believe what you see.
 


4. One Man, Two Guvnors

HKAPA, Lyric Theatre. Fri Feb 15-Sat Feb 23.
A critical and commercial hit in both the West End and on Broadway, the National Theatre of Great Britain’s laughfest may well be the funniest show of them all in recent memory. Scripted by stand-up comedian-turned-playwright Richard Bean and directed by the National Theatre’s artistic director Nicholas Hytner, One Man, Two Guvnors is a farcical and very British update on Carlo Goldoni’s 1753 comedy classic, The Servant of Two Masters, following a hapless servant who tries to make an extra quid by simultaneously serving two masters – or two ‘guvnors’ – on the same evening. Hilarity ensures… and it never stops.
 


5. Einstein on the Beach

Cultural Centre, Grand Theatre. Fri Mar 8-Sun Mar 10.
Twenty years after its last production, Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s 1976 operatic dance-theatre masterpiece returned with this revival last year to once again entrance audiences new and old. Clocking in at four and a half hours without an interval, the ‘opera in four acts’, which broke all the rules of conventional opera, is a non-narrative theatrical experience that blends perfectly its countless eclectic components, ranging from murmured poetry and a violin-playing Einstein to the ecstatic abstract dance sequences created by American choreographer Lucinda Childs. This is one historically important occasion you really, really can’t afford to miss.

Hong Kong Arts Festival 2013 runs from Thu Feb 21-Fri Mar 22. For the complete programme, visit hk.artsfestival.org. Tickets: 2734 9009; urbtix.hk.

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