Connecting the World while Taking Root in Hong Kong
I used to think that documentary theatre is difficult to leave its particular cultural context. Thus, although it has developed for decades in Europe with its climax in the 1960s, it has been seldom discussed in Hong Kong. In 2013 when I introduced the documentary theatre masterpiece Laramie Project into Hong Kong, I just organized a staged reading. I was afraid that Hong Kong audience might find this real murder case in such a remote town in the US too distanced.
In Mar 2018 in Toronto, we have screened the video recording of our performance 1967: Rerun and put on a staged reading of On the Record. The audience was mainly composed of immigrants from Hong Kong. They are still concerned about Hong Kong. There were also the young generation of such ex-Hongkongers and some non-Chinese. Regardless of their ethnicity, their response was unanimously favourable. Both performances have given them an insight into Hong Kong. It has prompted me to rethink about the limitation of documentary theatre.
In 2015, I decided to put on a full-fledged production of Laramie Project followed by its sequel Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, because quite a number of audience members of the stage reading have reflected that despite the remoteness of the location, it was not difficult for them to relate to it as long as there was appropriate guidance. Its close relationship to the reality has added to its immense power.
Documentary theatre works were often based on a person or group of people or a certain event that is significant to a particular period of time or place. The audience in that community is easy to be related to the work. The documentary theatre work will also help the latter generation or foreigners to understand more about that particular place and time or issue. Hong Kong used to take pride on being an international metropolis. However, after the 21st century, our international standing seems to be dwindling, with regard to both our own confidence and in the view of outsiders. At such a critical moment, documentary theatre may be able to make some contribution by leaving behind a valuable record. Documentary theatre can also be a window for the world to have a sneak peek of Hong Kong and vice versa for Hong Kong to be connected with the world. Documentary theatre has developed for such a long time in the international stage. We have so much to learn.
“Connecting the world while taking root in Hong Kong” has therefore become the motto of the 2nd Documentary Theatre Festival. We will continue to create more original documentary theatre works by studying local issues or communities; we will also continue to connect the world by taking on study tours, inviting overseas masters to hold workshops in Hong Kong and having staged reading of foreign documentary theatre works; we will publish documentary theatre handbooks and collections of translated plays too, which will provide more materials for people who have interest in such a genre.
The window is there but we need an action to open it. Now, please take action!