All your world's a stage

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am


To script, or not to script? That is the question many in the drama world contemplate. Traditional theatre prefers the use of scripts, which offer something of a safety net.

However, improvisational theatre prides itself on spontaneity and the sheer freedom of acting instinctively off other actors. That is the beauty of 'improv', and witnessing a live performance can be magical.

There are many categories of improv. One in particular is playback theatre, which is precisely what its name implies. Actors playback, or re-enact, part of a story told by participating audience members. Rather than simply re-enacting events, actors add their own artistic interpretation to make the performance more lively and entertaining, while maintaining the gist of the story.

Although actor-director Nobuyuki Gomi has participated in other forms of drama, he's particularly interested in playback theatre. He founded the theatre troupe Muhosha, in 2005 and directs the production Yume Miru Kikai (literally 'dream-making machine/opportunity'), which was first performed last year in Japan.

Gomi was swept off his feet watching the Theatre Troupe GIGA's performance of Das Gauklerm?rchen. The experience sparked his interest in the performing arts and he was later inspired to join GIGA. .

'I was really attracted to the moment,' Gomi, 26, tells Young Post through a translator. 'Seeing real people acting, right in front of me was what did it for me.'

As part of the annual showcase, Small Theatre Big Drama Asia Dialogue 2012, Muhosha will perform two shows in Hong Kong this Friday and Saturday. The annual event gives smaller Asian theatre companies the chance to work together, share ideas and have a platform for open dialogue. It also gives them a venue for performing in front of a broader audience.

Joining Muhosha this year are Little Red Shop, from Singapore, and Actors' Square and littlebreath (both Hong Kong), who will perform various forms of drama.

A typical playback show consists of a conductor, actors, musician(s) and, of course, an audience. A conductor speaks to the audience to gather stories, or suggestions, for the actors to re-enact. The conductor is also responsible for orchestrating the performance.

'As conductor, I'll start with a simple question, something like, 'What did you see on the way to this venue?',' Gomi says. 'Gradually I will ask more about the person's past. And depending on the story from the audience, I decide how many actors should perform, or the specific type of formation.'

Selected members of the audience pick the performing actor, or actors. Gomi will compose the type of story to be performed, such as the number of scenes, on the spot.

Actors use the communication between Gomi and the audience as directing cues; Muhosha also use large puppets (pictured left) as part of their performance.

Typically the conductor does not act, but on occasion - like Gomi - they will step in and act. Muhosha will be accompanied by 8-bit musician, Chiptune, who creates music with a Game Boy. Music helps enhance or bring out a certain mood to the piece.

Playback theatre can be very empowering - for actors as well as the audience. Imagine your life converted into a living piece of art performed in front of a live crowd. It's like having a play, or film about you, created in your honour. It's the hook that brings people back.

Muhosha perform Yume Miru Kikai at Black Box Theatre, Kwai Tsing Theatre, on Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 3pm.