Time has been the main theme of many Zuni Icosahedron productions lately, according to actor, dancer and choreographer Dick Wong Tai-fai. Eighteen Springs, a multimedia musical based on the novel of the same name by writer Eileen Chang Ai-ling, and Stage Sisters, a work inspired by kun opera master Shi Xiaomei, are all to do with time.
"Performance is about real time and real space, so time is always an element," Wong says.
It was a timeline, he says, that gave him a starting point for the latest Zuni production, 0382, which looks back at the experimental theatre company's first three decades, using a combination of "physical movement, video, monologue, drama and dance".
The show will also reunite Wong, David Yeung Wing-tak and Pia Ho Sau-ping - all have a long history with the company - on stage.
Zuni Icosahedron was formally established on March 3, 1982, hence the title. "I've been with the group for the past 30 years, so I thought for the anniversary it would be interesting to work on a piece about Zuni, and also about myself, and the other two performers, who are both founding members of Zuni. It's about personal history and the group's history," says Wong, who will be directing the upcoming production.
"There is a timeline of Zuni from the first year until now, and that will be the basis for everything in the performance. There will be some reinterpretation of certain themes from previous productions."
Wong joined Zuni in 1983, and has recently been touring internationally with his dance work B.O.B.*, originally created for the 2004 Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Ho has written and directed extensively for Zuni, most recently with 2010's Stage Sisters. Yeung has been involved in the development and performance of works including the One Hundred Years of Solitude series from 1982 to 2011, and the East Wing West Wing political satire series from 2003 to 2010.
"We've worked together before in different productions, particularly in the first 10 years, but we've never worked together in this kind of context. Previously it has been under a director, but this is a collective production," says Wong. They have come a long way: 30 years ago Wong, now engaged full time in the performing arts, was a journalism student with an interest in dance; Yeung, now a "resident artist" with Zuni, was a telecommunications engineer; and Ho was unemployed. Today she is the creative director of Commercial Radio Hong Kong.
Wong says that in the course of developing 0382 he, Ho and Yeung reviewed video footage of past productions, and went through the Zuni archives, including audience questionnaires.
"In the early years people used to write a lot. If they didn't like the production they would tell you why. We still send out questionnaires after the performance, but they don't write so much," Wong says. "I think in the early days people were more curious about things. Now, because of technology, everything is about speed. Zuni has interacted with the changing times."
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