By Lok Hang Vincent Chu

‘All animals are equal but some…’ we know how that quote goes. Opportunities for theatre participation have never been equal in Hong Kong, but such privileges have been made clearer during lockdowns. Just as we have moved meetings and work online, theatre groups have also migrated their performances online and conducted their auditions digitally. This hasn’t all been bad. There are instances where such compromises made opportunities for theatre viewing more equal. For example, the YouTube channel ‘The Show Must Go On!’ made a few Andrew Lloyd Webber classics (briefly) free to access. Other theatre organisations have similarly made part of their repertoires freely available, again for a brief period. Performances that were moved online were also ticketed at a lower price. Yet, such ‘charity’ has not become a trend. More often than not, theatre performances in Hong Kong have either been cancelled or postponed due to the unavailability of venues. The lack of performance venues has therefore made theatre less accessible to audience members. This does not only affect the performance: the end product. The lack of theatre space as a whole posed challenges for performers even before the production.

The privileges of theatre space are missed most acutely by performers, especially pre-production. Venues for leisure and cultural activities are the first to shut down in Hong Kong during lockdown, as the government’s mandate implies that these are merely inconsequential to our lives. No necessity equals no need to remain open at trying times. Performers can only turn to online lessons, which are nothing new, to practise their craft. This is when the privileges of theatre space are most needed, and longed for. Let’s take dancing as an example. When we are in a dance studio, all students have equal access to the studio space during lessons. But when we take dance lessons online as a compromise for the lack of theatre space, each student will experience the lesson differently in terms of space. I imagine only very few of us could afford a space at home to pirouette without knocking down things in our living room or bedroom. Now imagine having to record a complete two-minute routine for an audition digitally. The same applies to actors and singers who do not have a quiet space all to themselves. Personally, it was extremely difficult for me to find a time where I had the living room all to myself to practise or record myself singing or giving a monologue. I would disturb my family and neighbours at the dead of night if I sang full-out. During the day, I would disturb my brother who would be listening to his lectures at home. Bear in mind that I could find no other spaces to record or practise either due to lockdown measures. Meanwhile, peers of mine who own a flat or at least a room to themselves could sing as they pleased. ‘All performers are equal but…’

‘I need space. And fresh air. Let ‘em laugh in my face. I don’t care. Save my place. I’ll be there’. While I’m not moving to Santa Fe like Jack Kelly, I still hope that the government will be more lenient towards theatre space or public health measures. I do want to go out, practise, and enjoy the same space with my fellow theatre-lovers.

Published on: May 31, 2022 < Back >