Beating the Classroom

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am


Beating the Classroom
Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio

After a seven-year stint at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (APA) - two as its dean of drama - Tang Shu-wing is returning to the stage this week with a slapstick physical comedy that features acrobatics, percussion music and wacky clowning but no dialogue.

It's an offbeat, if not unlikely, original piece from a director who is better known for his more cerebral offerings such as Titus Andronicus, which he will update and present at the Globe Theatre in London next May as part of the Cultural Olympiad in Britain.

But the 52-year-old says he has always been interested in the 'alternative physical culture'. While physical or non-verbal theatre has long held audiences' imaginations worldwide - think Cirque de Soleil, Stomp, Voyage de la Vie, Jump! (from South Korea) and Cirque Mechanics' Birdhouse Factory (now playing at the APA) - the genre is rarely staged here.

'That's partly because there aren't that many local actors who are trained in, or can perform, this style; which in turn means there aren't that many opportunities to see good physical theatre here,' he says.

For Beating the Classroom, he recruited two 'outsiders' for the five-member cast as well as B-boy (breakdancing) group Monkey J as guest performers. Leading the pack is Lisa Cheng Lai-sho, who won the Cheung Chau bun scrambling title in the women's division this year. Nicknamed 'Spider Woman', the 24-year-old had come top in the Hong Kong Women's Speed Climbing competition the past eight years and previously won the Hong Kong Miss Body Fitness title.

Acrobat, television actor and cheerleading coach Zico Hau Kin-man will join in the fray in a drama that pitches four mischievous students against a discipline teacher during a detention. The cast also includes Aska Leung, Yau Chung-wai and Or Ka-kee.

Tang studied acting and theatre in France and received a Maitrise Certificat in 1990 as well as the honour of Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in 2007.

After attending a three-week yoga course in India in September, he says that he finds practising pranayama (a form of breathing and meditation) has helped him further explore the connection between the mind and body.

'Yoga is a process of self realisation,' he says. 'It changes the way that I look at other people and my work. It is not a religion in that you are building a relationship not with a god but with yourself. It's more a spiritual experience. I'm less stubborn these days and ... I'm taking a different approach in creating.'

Dec 15-18, 8pm; Dec 17-18, 3pm. Shouson Theatre, HK Arts Centre, HK$180, HK$250. Inquiries: 2144 5335