The biannual International Black Box Festival will now be renamed the Hong Kong International Black Box Festival and it marks the first of many collaborations between the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre and West Kowloon Cultural District. Together, we believe in curating the best and brightest of the contemporary theatre scene from around the world for Hong Kong’s audiences.
This edition is an invitation for you to spend a moment of disruption with us as a response to the world we live in today. Our world today is one of war and hatred, ruled by fear and misinformation. A scenario that ironically conditions us to absolve our agency by simply clicking a like, a share on Facebook or Twitter.
This situation also blurs the lines between what is real and what is fiction. But then, what is real? The presentation and representation of the real in theatre is always a problematic one as Walter Benjamin discusses in his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Perhaps the consumption of such absolutes is less important than the need to specifically address the returning of agency to audiences in the theatre.
The projects that we have curated for this festival invite us, the audience, to be aware of our agency. Your life experiences, your intellectual, moral and emotional compasses that you imbue with these performances will complete them. Hence, they encourage you to question the process of Becoming Real. This encounter, however, is not about what is and what is not, but rather, it tests our limits of what we think we know and questions our reading of the everyday.
We begin the festival with a special performance called One Fine Day by Beijing director Li Jianjun. Working with 19 individuals of varied cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds from Hong Kong, the audience will encounter their stories as told by the subjects themselves. Almost like a voyeur, you listen in on their stories told ”live” through selecting the appropriate channel on your radio set. You are instantly made aware of your role as you engage in this deliberate act of consuming these “real” stories, real lives.
In week two, we invite you to enter the world of Silvia Calderoni in a piece titled MDLSX by critically acclaimed Italian company Motus. Beyond the currency of labels such as transgender, cisgender, gender fluid, etc. The experience of meeting Calderoni blurs the lines between fact and fiction, one that pushes the limitations of identity structures transcending into actual living. MDLSX is a post-punk rollercoaster ride that explodes our conceptions of gender identities and difficulties in going beyond such labels.
The third piece by Australian performance company post, will introduce their unique brand of humour, live art and theatre in collaboration with artists from Hong Kong for the first time. The Cantonese version of their riotous Oedipus Schmoedipus will have its world premiere this autumn. In this piece, they challenge our conceptions of death as told by the Great White Man so pervasive in our theatrical canon. For them, “death belongs to everyone” and hence, 25 volunteers are invited for each performance date to playact their best dying sequences through a hysterical journey of “sly postmodern commentary” on the coloniser and the colonised.
We close the festival with Five Easy Pieces by Milo Rau/International Institute of Political Murder/CAMPO. A theatrical triumph at festivals the world over, the piece is a sharp investigation on being someone else on stage. Working with children under 13 years old, they perform the life of child killer Marc Dutroux using testimonies, trial documents, and interviews. This (re)presentation by these young performers probes the limits of the possibility of what children know, feel and do. This experience brings to the fore our own fears, taboos and morality, an intervention that wakes us from our ethical slumber conditioned by the everyday of our today.
So we invite you to come and be a little uncomfortable with us, to take a moment and engage in this disruption of your everyday. Hopefully, you will leave the theatre transformed, energized with a renewed sense of agency and know that you can and must do something about it. See you at the festival!
Fung Wai Hang & Low Kee Hong
Co-curators, Hong Kong International Black Box Festival