No Man's Land
Kwai Tsing Theatre
Reviewed: Mar 1
It takes audacity to stage a play at the vast Kwai Tsing Theatre with neither a solid set nor multimedia shenanigans. But director Tang Shu-wing's gamble with Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus - part of this year's Arts Festival - has paid off.
There were no fancy backdrops and the performance was entirely shorn of music, bar the Rash Behari Datta raga that accompanied the actors' silent presence on stage before the lights dimmed. The director and cast conjured a storming show out of what is already one of the most disturbing pieces in the Bard's oeuvre.
With his customary knack for manipulating space, Tang used his stage minimalism to maximise the physicality and emotional impact of the performance, as the actors were forced to fill the void around them. The cast mixed conventional acting with sporadic Meyerholdian experimentation in body movement and vocal projection (most strikingly Andy Ng, conjuring the madness of vengeful Roman general Titus).
With the play's extreme twists (rape, murder, mutilation and lunacy) and the pitfalls of translation, it could have become a pear-shaped mess of pomp and hammy acting, but Tang delivered madness without hysteria.
Tang's meditation on process also found its way into the production as he unravelled the background to the violence with a prologue in which the entire cast took the stage before dressing for their roles and exiting to prepare for the action that followed. It was a masterstroke of economical storytelling and a gripping opening gambit - and a great lead-in to the powerful performance that followed. A remarkable production.