Young guns catch second Wave

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 January, 2000, 12:00am

I WAS sending out promotional flyers the other day and we borrowed mailing lists from a few other theatre companies to get more addresses. I soon discovered I had been sticking the same names on again and again, because the different lists read more or less the same.' This observation by Allen Ma Chi-ho, the main mover behind young theatre unit Trinity Theatre, speaks volumes about the problems for budding drama troupes. The availability of venues at The Fringe and the Arts Centre has created new possibilities for aspiring but inexperienced theatre activists with a taste for the experimental, but audiences are far from buying into their scene.

'Dramas have always been the least attended among all performing art forms,' Ma said. 'And even now it is a myth that theatre is getting more acceptance: we have more housewives coming in, that's all.' Indeed, only mainstream theatre - drunk on its fascination with storylines resembling soap operas, topped off with a dollop of populist humour - sees surging ticket sales.

For young activists like Ma, scaling Tai Mo Shan in a tuxedo probably looks less thankless a task than striving for more exposure and bigger audiences. Those Were The Days, Trinity Theatre's last outing in October at the Fringe, was a piece of delightfully insightful work touching on how the twentysomethings of this age build their perspectives in life through reminiscences. The quality, however, was not matched by public enthusiasm.

Ma and his friends get another chance, however, in Wave 2000, the second Wave festival in which six theatre greenhorns, selected by organisers the Arts Centre, will bring their labours into the spotlight. The first Wave was last year.

Other than Trinity's rejigged version of Those Were The Days, Binary provides a vivid picture of alienation wrought by an Internet revolution in 2056 - Beta Version 1.0, in which the protagonists find themselves entrenched, Tron-style, in a search for a digital Holy Grail. Swirl-oo, meanwhile, tells tales in A Day-Off Trip. Taking cues from the traditional Chinese legend about a utopian land called Tao Hua Yuan, paradise is broken down to nothing other than reality.

Sim Theatre grapples with life's contradictions in One Simple Day Of Paradox. More experimental may be Dirty Four Theatre Project's interactive theatre production, The Fairy Tales, in which the audience gets to interfere with the play's content. In 4 Show, Theatre No! gives objects from daily life new meaning, turning the theatre into a kitchen to explore 'the taste of life'.

The fact that they do not have to make their debuts in a competition - which used to be the case for most amateur theatre companies - allows them to explore what they are most comfortable with. And however idiosyncratic the performances, the festival should ensure these young bloods are watched by keener audiences this time round.

Under the care of the Arts Centre they are provided with finances to beef up their projects, and the promotional work and administrative costs are taken care of.

'Spared the paperwork we usually have to, we can spend 90 per cent of our time creating the piece - so if we can't come up with something good then we have only ourselves to blame,' said Alex Tam Hung-man, a core member of Theatre No! Wave 2000. McAulay Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre. January 11-30. Cantonese. Tickets $60-$80. Call 2582 0232