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Verbatim theatre examines HK's cycles of construction and destruction

     Hong Kong-based theatre company Theatre du Pif is collaborating with Burst TV and leading young Scottish playwright/dramaturg Liam Hurley, to present The Will To Build, an innovative piece of "verbatim theatre" that examines the past, present and future of Hong Kong's relentless cycle of construction and destruction, and its effects on the city's inhabitants.

     It intends to provoke debate about the value of Hong Kong's built heritage.

     The production was commissioned jointly by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the British Council. It is the closing performance of LCSD's New Vision Arts Festival and it also celebrates the 60th anniversary of the British Council in Hong Kong.

     Verbatim theatre, a popular art form in the UK, is an innovative and socially aware theatrical form that uses original interviews or oral material to create new performance work. The Will To Build skilfully weaves together verbatim transcripts of interviews with people who are intimately involved in and affected by our city's obstinate will to build. They include property tycoons, construction workers, architects, planners, preservation activists, politicians, Feng Shui masters, former colonial dignitaries and cage-dwellers.

     Co-Artistic Director of Theatre du Pif and the Director and Writer of The Will To Build, Ms Bonni Chan, commented: "Throughout our research and rehearsal process, several themes have emerged: space, pace, functionality, spirituality and identity. The result, I hope, will offer insights into how we have come to love or hate our city, each other and ourselves. So I invite people to listen as the present voices of the city inspire and challenge us to re-examine our pre-conceived ideas about what Hong Kong means to us."

     Some of the scenes in the play are:
- Chu Hoi-dick protests at the Queen's Pier
- Elsie Tu fights for housing for squatters
- Paul Zimmerman builds Hong Kong to be the best city in the world
- Christine Loh tries to connect with her 700 years of family history
- Bar-benders work at construction sites
- Sir David Akers-Jones revisits the 10-year housing programme
- Shiu Ka-chun invents a pause button for his too-busy students
- Eight people attempt to co-exist amicably in a 50-sqare foot flat
- Chip Tsao points out the "Wrong Exits" taken by Hong Kong people

     Dramaturg Liam Hurley, who was one of the National Theatre of Scotland's first "Emerging Artists", supports Chan in structuring the text and scenes of The Will To Build.

     He said: "The company has no set agenda or social manifesto to impress on its audience, but seeks instead to reflect back the subject matter as a meditation, a debate, a hallucination, a provocation. This approach has freed me up to respond to the source material creatively, and to edit, re-shape and transform it into theatrical scenarios without losing connection to the original intention, the original voice. My hope is that the overall effect will be more expressionistic, ambiguous and unsettling than a literal dramatisation of the interviews."

     Michael Wilson and Steff Ungerer of Burst TV contribute original video footage, sound effects and music to the production. Burst TV is a London-based collective of multimedia artists specialised in producing and directing original videos and photography for use in live settings such as theatre and opera. They have worked on projects with the Pet Shop Boys, The National Theatre of Tokyo, Hamburg State Opera and English National Opera.

     The cast are renowned Hong Kong actor Lee Chun-chow, Sean Curran (the Co-Artistic Director of Theatre du Pif and a co-deviser of The Will To Build), Morgan Gadd, Phoebe Chan, Shirley Tsoi, Benny Yu, Iris Sun and Anson Lam.

     Theatre du Pif, formed in Scotland in 1992 by Bonni Chan and Sean Curran, is known for its cross-cultural heritage and bilingual productions performed in Cantonese and/or English. Using a workshop and devising process as well as collaborations with dramaturgs and artists from other disciplines, they orchestrate movement, text and visual images in productions that are acclaimed for both their power and their poetry.

     The Will To Build will be staged at 8pm from November 20-23 (Thursday to Sunday); and at 3 pm on November 22 and 23, (Saturday and Sunday) at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre. The show will be performed in English and Cantonese, with Chinese and English surtitles.

     Tickets priced at $120, $160 and $220 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Group booking discounts of up to 20% are available.

     Programme brochures are now available at URBTIX outlets or at the website

     Credit card telephone bookings can be made on 2111 5999 and telephone reservations on 2734 9009. Internet bookings can be made at

     For programme enquiries, please call 2370 1044 (LCSD) or 2904 2030 (Theatre du Pif).

Ends/Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The cast of "The Will To Build", an innovative piece of verbatim theatre, that examines the past, present and future of Hong Kong's relentless cycle of construction and destruction, and its effects on the city's inhabitants.


The cast of "The Will To Build", an innovative piece of verbatim theatre, that examines the past, present and future of Hong Kong's relentless cycle of construction and destruction, and its effects on the city's inhabitants.



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