Drama students zero in on expressionism

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 1994, 12:00am

IN general, audiences find realistic drama presentation easier to accept than expressionistic presentations.

Expressionism was developed by the young German playwrights in 1910 and greatly influenced the work of playwrights such as August Strinberg, Eugene O'Neill, Bertolt Brechta and Sean O'Casey.

Since drama is a collaborated art form, all ''isms'' are from other arts. Expressionism in drama is no exception. It first appeared in painting. In the 1900s painting critics used the term to divide impressionists from Van Gogh etc.

The expressionistic painters refused to paint what they saw on the surface. They wanted to express what they felt, while the impressionists paint the outer truth.

Early expressionist playwrights included Georg Buchner, August Strindberg, Frank Wedekind who were followed by Karel Capek and Henry-Rene Lenormand.

World War I diminished care and trust throughout the world. Expressionistic plays which developed during this period were like dreams, where anything could happen.

They were presented with distorted settings and props, various sudden changes of lighting effects and striking colours.

The structure of the expressionistic play is organised by fragmental scenes and dialoguers. Characters have no individuality, and are even presented without proper names.

Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine is certainly one of the earliest successful expressionistic dramas in the United States.

Its main character is Mr Zero. It satirises the modern man by showing us the life and death of a bookkeeper, Mr Zero, in the machine age.

The Adding Machine will be presented by the School of Drama at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts from May 4 to 7.

Mr Chung King-fai is Dean of Drama at the Academy for Performing Arts