Hong Kong actors get a dramatic opportunity to train at Lamda

Hong Kong teenagers wait to learn who will tread the boards at a famous London stage school after 18-month theatre programme

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 4:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 4:50am

Future stars of the stage are waiting to learn whether they will be heading to one of the world's leading drama schools after an intense 18-month programme of training and community service.

The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (Lamda) - the alma mater of Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch and scores of other stars - is offering 20 young Hongkongers a month's training after working with local theatre-education group Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection (Aftec).

The programme - the Bravo! Hong Kong Youth Theatre Awards - is the first bilingual training programme Lamda has ever collaborated on with an overseas art group.

"Lamda training is about working together, it's about ensemble and engaging socially with the community and with the art form. These are shared values that match with Aftec, our Hong Kong partner," said Joanna Read, the academy's principal.

Lamda and Aftec worked with the Lee Hysan Foundation to launch the Bravo! programme last year. Some 43 participants aged 12 to 17, including some from financially deprived backgrounds, were selected to take part in the innovative programme consisting of three sets of workshops, two performances and 17 hours of social service, totalling 298 hours over 18 months. They were separated into English and Chinese streams.

After intensive auditions last weekend, a panel of adjudicators, including Read, selected 20 young actors for the London programme. They will learn their fate at an awards ceremony at the Cultural Centre on Monday.

"It was a very tough decision because the ability was very high, and they all worked incredibly hard," Read said. Compared with Londoners, the young Hongkongers "are more disciplined and focused, and very good in reflecting on what they learn".

Read credited Aftec for the students' reflective nature.

Under the Aftec programme, all participants are required to write about and share what they had learned. That, along with punctuality and attendance over the year, constituted 30 per cent of the total score for the audition for London. The rest was based on the audition itself, which consists of a three-minute monologue presentation, and then a five-minute question-and- answer session with the panel.

"We apply the same standards and the level of professionalism we use in our auditions at Lamda," said Read.

"We are taking a very small group, but the best professional actors and actresses, and we make them better. The teachers that I've brought over to train the Aftec students are the teachers that train these people."

Founded in 1861, Lamda's role of alumni includes established Hollywood names like Brian Cox and Jim Broadbent, as well as rising stars such as Sam Claflin and Dominic Cooper.

Lynn Yau, Aftec's CEO, called the 110 hours of training in London "a blessed opportunity" for a talented group of young people.

"I hope the four weeks in London will enhance their independence and self-motivation, which they already built up through the Bravo! programme, and thus help them become more responsible people. It pleases me most to learn of their interest in careers as performers, playwrights, and, like me, theatrical educators," she adds.

The students are also relishing the opportunity.

Marco Tang Pak-chung, a Form Four student at St Joan of Arc Secondary School, said after the audition that the drama programme had taught him what it takes to succeed.

"Drama requires more than just acting skills, but perseverance and commitment," said Tang, a member of Bravo's Chinese stream.

Sponsorship from the Lee Hysan Foundation will allow those without the means to make it to London to join the trip free of charge, and Tang is one such candidate. "This is a one-in-a-life-time opportunity for me to brush up my physical theatre technique and of course my English too!" he said.

For Reyes Christina Katelyn Lano, a Form Five student at Rosaryhill School, the chance to join the London trip would prove to her parents that it was worth pursuing drama rather than joining the family business.

"The Bravo programme has helped me with time-management and self-discipline," said the Hong Kong-born Filipino.

"Four weeks in London would definitely raise my standards and convince me once more that I need to follow my dream," she added.

Read says the lucky 20 can play a key role in building the future "infrastructure of theatrical arts" in Hong Kong.

"I hope they will all get very tired after some very hard work during the month, and they will return as the new generation of theatre-makers and give back to the community," she said.