'Hecklers' reward English-language performers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 6:45pm

The Bisous nightclub in Central's LKF Tower is not exactly Radio City Music Hall, but there on September 3, Hong Kong will get what organiser Meaghan McGurgan describes as our own "little Tony awards".

The ceremony is being held by the website HKELD (Hong Kong English Language Drama, which McGurgan manages. The site reviews local performing arts productions, and posts listings and venue information. The awards have been called The Hecklers.

"We have 16 categories for acting, directing, and so on, and we have open nominations, so anyone can be nominated. Hundreds of nominations have come in, and some of the categories are quite close. Anybody can vote for them, so it's a completely transparent process. You just sign up for a ballot," she explains.

Who will walk away with a Heckler award for categories such as best English accessible non-English show, best show (musical) and best show (non-musical) is anybody's guess.

But productions with bigger casts and crews, she says, have an advantage, because there is a larger pool of people who know the participants, and will be inclined to vote for them.

Voters choose from five nominations in each category. Face Productions' Hairspray is the show with the most nominations, with 12 across eight categories.

McGurgan thinks there will be some interesting stories behind the contenders for what she calls "The Oops! award - best cover-up".

This is for "those brave artists who showed courage under fire and saved the ship when it was going down". The event will also double as a first anniversary party for the HKELD.

The site developed from a blog which freelance theatre director McGurgan had been contributing to for about four years in her spare time. She reviewed productions and provided information about the local performing arts scene.

McGurgan had planned to leave Hong Kong, but wanted the blog to keep going. So she asked if there was anyone interested in taking it over. When they heard she was leaving, a couple of the blog's loyal followers offered her a salary to stay and run a new website.

Her salary, and the site's running costs, are covered by a mixture of sponsorship and advertising. "The blog kind of changed into HKELD," she says. "We're not here to make a million dollars - just to cover costs and provide a service."

McGurgan still writes many of the reviews herself, and says she tries to avoid reviewing productions and performances by friends.

"We have a critics' panel of five. Numbers fluctuate depending on how many people are in town. We have people who are experts in opera, dance, and performance art, and we try to pair the expert up with what their speciality is," she says.

Most of the contributors are active participants in the local performing arts scene, including McGurgan herself.

"I've had my own shows reviewed and some of the reviews have not been very nice," she says. "But I have to accept that, and go ahead and publish even though I disagree."

McGurgan says there are more than 10,000 subscribers on the e-mail list, and an average of 800 people read the HKELD website each day.