All aboard for drama class

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2006, 12:00am

AN Outdoor classroom can inspire creativity. That's what students from Sacred Heart Canossian College found out when they boarded a ferry in Victoria Harbour last Thursday.

More than 160 Form Four students from six classes walked up the gangplank of a ferry at North Point to watch the live drama Mutiny on the Bounty and participate in the pre-performance discussion and post-performance workshops, including creative writing and role-playing.

This theatre-in-education pilot project, jointly organised by the Chung Ying Theatre Company and the Hong Kong Ferry Company, attracted about 2,000 Form Four students from more than 30 secondary schools.

Altogether there were 12 on-board performances during the trial period in April, with students each paying a $180 attendance fee, which included a buffet.

Elaine Chung, director of the business development department of the Hong Kong Ferry Company, said the project would be fully launched in September and open to all schools.

The theatre company's artistic director, Ko Tin-lung, said that in the past year the theatre had put on performances in secondary school halls.

'But we wanted to make some changes for students confined to campuses and offer them a new environment in which to learn happily and effectively away from school.

'Ferries are used for tourists at night, but not during the day, and they make for an unusual environment for students.'

Ko said this project could improve students' self-expression abilities, enhance their appreciation of drama and build their confidence.

'It can ignite their minds and brighten their lives.'

Ms Chung agreed, saying that the project was also designed to help students appreciate the harbour.

'These days, students go to school by MTR. Few of them have carefully studied this beautiful and prosperous harbour. It is a pity.'

The drama, adapted from the historical account of the mutiny aboard the British Royal Navy ship Bounty in 1789, was performed by five of the theatre company's professional actors.

The goal of the Bounty's voyage, under the command of Captain Lieutenant William Bligh, was to obtain breadfruit plantings from Tahiti and take them to the Caribbean. Led by Master's Mate Fletcher Christian, the badly treated crew mutinied on April 28, 1789, took over the ship, and set Captain Bligh and 18 loyal men adrift in a small open boat. The incident has been made famous by several books and films.

At last Thursday's pre-performance workshop, Sacred Heart Canossian College's students were divided into eight groups, with one theatre company instructor assigned to each group.

The instructors briefed the students about the drama and gave them some of the characters' dialogue to study. The students were encouraged to imagine what the characters felt and why they said the words.

Vienn Chiu Tsz-tung, 15, said the workshop was really creative.

'It motivated us to think, express ourselves and communicate with each other. We have learned speaking skills.

'And the drama was really interesting.'

The students were also encouraged to discuss serious issues before and after the drama, such as what they

would do if they found themselves in the same situation as the crew and were being treated badly.

Vienn said she would have chosen to rebel if she had been treated badly, even though it may have meant death on the ship's return to England.

'We need to fight for our rights and what we do today can set examples for later generations. Freedom requires sacrifices,' she said.

Winnie Lam Wing-yau, 16, said she learned a lot from the drama.

'I will follow my mind and fight for my rights.'

Estella Wong Yuen-ping, education and development officer of the Chung Ying Theatre Company, said she hoped students, by thinking about and discussing situations like those presented in the drama, could learn how to make decisions when faced with a dilemma.

'The project is not only aimed at enhancing students' language ability, but also their multi-dimensional thinking. Before you speak, you have to have some ideas in your mind first.'

The creative writing section after the discussion was started with 'Something is floating on the sea and suddenly . . .'.

The students then had to continue the story, Ko explained. He said that 'something' could refer to whatever they saw around them - a ferry, a building, even the rubbish.

The teachers' response to the project was enthusiastic.

'This way of education is totally different from the classroom and is effective,' said Lam Mei-yi, a Chinese language teacher at Sacred Heart Canossian College.

'When I encourage students to read a passage with emotion in the classroom, they do not get involved.

'But today, the students' performed quite well. When they were speaking, their tone, feeling and attitude were different.

'Environment is a major factor, and another is that the instructors here are experienced. We need to learn from them.'