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Shakespeare sonnets adapted into a collaboration for the stage where the actors helped write the music

As seen during rehearsals, performers would interpret sonnets through singing and dramatic movement. One scene opens with a ringing soprano note by actress Leung Hee-na, who had trained as an opera singer. Dancers stand on either side of her as she walks through the stage, and then they break up in chaotic movement, as if stung by her song, and end up screaming at the ground.

The actors at the Théâtre de la Feuille during rehearsal for #1314.  Photo: Theater de la Feuillea

The actors at the Théâtre de la Feuille during rehearsal for #1314. Photo: Theater de la Feuillea

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At the end of the scene another actress, Han Mei, sings while her back is bent over two other actors, who carry her weight as she descends from the stage.

Music director Charles Kwang Chin-wai is tasked with bringing some unity to the various musical numbers. The contemporary composer says that the way in which the artists have contributed to the music makes this production unusual.

“It is not like an opera or the traditional way of making music, where a character is created by a mind. Instead, it is the personal history of the actors. The songs come from them,” he says.

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His challenge has been to figure out how to keep the unique qualities of each song, while making sure the overall performance doesn’t get too overwhelming, he says.

creative process for #1314 Actor Jonathan Kung also presents a new challenge for Chi-yip, who has studied with Wong and has experience acting for the screen. The character of Kung represents a youth in his early twenties who sings about flirting and the delusions of youthful love.

Speaking of doing poetry, Kung says, artists aren’t trying to convey a clear message through classic storytelling. Instead the performance invites the audience to present their feelings and interpretations on abstract expressions on stage.

A scene from #1314, written by Etta Wong for the Théâtre de la Feuille.  Photo: Theater de la Feuillea

A scene from #1314, written by Etta Wong for the Théâtre de la Feuille. Photo: Theater de la Feuillea

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“I think it’s like going to the gallery. People should be open and try to imagine and feel,” Kung says.

While much of the play will depend on the audience’s interpretation, one sentiment Wong wants to inspire with his work is Hope. The past few years have been tough for Hong Kong and the city has been filled with “dramatic conflict”, he says, referring to the current political division. He says he hopes the play will provide an opportunity for the audience to move away from anger and reflect on love.

“I want to give hope to the audience,” he says. “I think we’ve suffered a lot [tragic] Circumstances during this period. And we all need a place to express and rethink … everything.”

“#1314”, Theater de la Feuille, Auditorium, Sha Tin Town Hall, 8 pm, December 24, 3 pm, December 25-26.

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