A big egg of life
It all starts with an egg. It transforms into a planet, which is then slowly populated by puppets of animals and humans.
It is a poignant tale with few spoken words but a wealth of music and emotion. The production called Genesis is crafted brilliantly by its Italian artistic director Giacomo Ravicchio.
Back in 1996, Ravicchio and his fellow actors decided to start their own theatre. They called it the Meridiano. The idea, Ravicchio says, was 'to have a geographical name' with global resonance.
The meridian, or 'line of longitude', is an imaginary line that runs vertically from north to south on the globe, connecting all locations along it at given longitudes.
For the theatre troupe that is constantly on the move, it is a fitting name.
Meridiano is known for fusing classical theatre with myths and current events at the same time. Ravicchio draws inspiration from all things around him: articles, pictures, songs. Yet it is ancient myths that captivate him most.
'Myths are like collective dreams,' he notes. 'A mythical story has always been the only answer man has [given while] facing the mystery of life.'
For the troupe's performance this summer in Hong Kong, Ravicchio integrates philosophical and religious ideas and a wide array of art forms into an intense 50-minute show. That show is Genesis.
'Genesis takes the audience on a three-dimensional journey across the universe, in an enigmatic tale of life's mystery,' the Meridiano Theatre's website explains.
The story ponders what Ravicchio calls 'The Big Question': How did we get here and what is our purpose?
To answer that age-old question, Ravicchio knew he had to try and say something new. Every story 'had already been told ...with the bad guy, the good guy... and the journey to find the solution', the artist says.
Genesis, as in the Bible, is a story of Creation. It's the first piece of a trilogy that includes Anima and an as-yet unnamed third chapter. The performance seeks to explore how life itself first originated.
Yet the artistic production does not want to give ponderous scientific answers. Rather, it seeks to create an emotional response in the audience. There is 'no message!' Ravicchio insists.
The idea is to urge the audience to reflect on old questions from new angles. The artist feels that force-feeding them with a pre-made answer would defeat the whole purpose of the play: it would imprison the imagination.
Many of Ravicchio's productions deal with weighty ideas, theories and concepts. Yet he insists that there is no specific age or culture group that his performances are intended for.
'We try to do theatre that can be seen by everybody,' he says.
He adds that adults, children, and teenagers alike have enjoyed performances.
Over the past 15 years, Ravicchio has directed, written, and starred in a wide range of theatre productions. Yet with Genesis, he returns to basics.
The artist, normally thoughtful and serious, becomes animated like a child when he speaks about the production and his future plans. The Italian has recently been involved in a collaboration with the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre on a remake of Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Yet he won't be resting on his laurels any time soon. He is planning to continue travelling the world to bring his art to an ever-wider audience.
As in the Bible, Genesis is only the beginning.
Genesis runs from Wednesday to Sunday and July 18-19. Shows are either in English or Chinese, depending on the date. For tickets, call Urbtix on 2111 5999 or check out www.urbtix.hk