Actors and staff join forces to present perfect drama

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 January, 1993, 12:00am

WILLIAM Shakespeare wrote 400 years ago: ''All the world's a stage'', and if you look around Hongkong in 1992, the manager, the air hostess, the fisherman, the hawker, the TV newscaster . . . the list could go on and on - all are playing a part.

Their clothes are a form of costume: the uniform of the policeman, the neat, reassuring suit of the bank manager, the uniform of the air hostess . . . but they don't clamber up on a stage and learn their lines or pretend to be someone else.

The actor does this - in a play or on television, or in a film. Most of the time he is acting with someone else. Sometimes, though, he is all alone - just himself and the audience in a one-man or one-woman show.

Working at the academy, teaching voice and acting, I felt the need to get in front of an audience again.

Some of the best teachers in the performing arts are unable to match the accomplishment of their star pupils, but they can help their students to develop, in a way that the best performer is unable to match.

Nevertheless, I wanted to get into the glare of the stage lights again. So I rewrote a short play by the Russian writer, Anton Chekhov and out I went into local schools to try it out.

I had with me several students: a stage manager, a sound and lighting student, and I had a costume made by the students of the wardrobe department, which goes to show that the theatre is far from a one-man show - into every play goes an enormous amountof work by all the people you don't see on stage.

I then wrote a full-length piece about Shakespeare, which I called ''Me and Shakespeare!''. It is important to have a personal commitment to the show you are doing. You have got to enjoy being ''up there'' or the audience will get bored, or even concerned about you! Self-confidence is one of the essential attributes of the actor. Over the door of one of the acting schools in New York is written: ''You gotta know that you got it: and if you ain't got it - Forget it''! But you need help. A director - who sits out front and stands in for the audience, so to speak, can tell you if you can easily be heard, and if the script is understandable.

So the actor with his one-man show needs a director and a designer for the lighting and the costume and set. In one of the scenes in the Shakespeare programme, I am standing at the graveside of the playwright's young son.

We decided to play it in the rain, with me carrying an umbrella, and the sound of wind and a mournful church bell in the background. The lighting and sound contribute so much to the effect on the audience: one can hardly call it a ''one-man show''.

Finally, it is worth remembering that the audience needs entertaining. That doesn't mean that they have to be made to laugh all the time, but they must be gripped by the story, and the energy and imagination of the actor.

Mr Colin George is the Head of Acting (English Production) of APA