The story takes place towards the end of the Ming dynasty. The country is ravaged by natural and man-made disasters, and the people suffered dearly. A murder is committed at a small seaside county in the south. The Tiger Tail Mountain may be under the imperial government’s rule, but the towering trees and rugged landscape provide excellent cover for brigands and robbers. One day around noon, Dongfang Yu and his wife Zhu are passing through the mountain when they are accosted by the solitary brigand Huyan Bao. Bao sees the woman and immediately lusts after her, and he forces himself upon her after restraining her husband. Surprisingly, Bao falls in love with Zhu after the fact and wants to take her away with him. The two men fight over her. In the end, Yu is killed while Zhu flees during the commotion. Bao takes Yu’s sword and horse and leaves. By a curious twist of fate, he passes out after drinking poisoned water from the river, and is captured by bailiffs. A farmer finds Yu’s body while a monk saves Zhu, and they both report to the authorities.
During the trial, Bao admits that it was all his doing and proudly pleads guilty. However, Zhu tearfully recalls that Yu had refused to forgive her after she was raped by Bao, so she drew her dagger to threaten him. She fainted, and woke to find her husband dead. She was about to commit suicide by throwing herself into the river, but was rescued by the monk.
The magistrate enlists the help of a medium to take Yu’s statement from the netherworld. The latter pours his heart out: he felt helpless at being unable to save Zhu from being raped; it also tore him apart to see his wife showing an attachment for the brigand. Consumed with shame, the teary man saw the dagger and slit his own throat with it.
The farmer Ou Yang, however, tells a different version of the story: after violating Zhu, Bao went down on his knees and begged for her forgiveness, promising to turn over a new leaf and stay by her side forever. She told Bao that she would go with him if he killed her husband. She also told Yu to prove that he was a man by killing the brigand. The two men fought to prove their courage, and it ended with Yu dead.
Monk Hongding laments, “What is true, and what is false? Can we still bring ourselves to trust in others? Without trust among people, wouldn’t it be the same as living in hell? Where has our humanity gone?” Suddenly, the cries of an abandoned baby are heard from behind the Asura Palace. What kind of ending will the infant usher in?
Law Ka-ying as Hongding, a monk
Chan Hung-chun as Deng Dong, a merchant
Lui Hung-kwong as Ou Yang, a farmer
Li Qiuyuan, Vong Seng-pan, Wan Yuk-yu as Huyan Bao, a bandit
Wang Zhiliang, Ng Chin-fung, Hong Hai as Dongfang Yu, a highborn young man
Li Pui-yan, Cheng Wing-mui, Chong Yuen-sin as Zhu Mengyao, a lady
Chan Ka-ming as Madam Seven from the Netherworld, a medium
The running time of the performance is approximately 3 hours including an intermission of 15 minutes.
Lyrics and dialogue with Chinese and English surtitles.
Information provided by the arts group
For me, Mr. Akira Kurosawa is a role model, someone to admire and learn from. His films combine the quintessence of Chinese and Western cultures, illuminating deep truths for the audience to ruminate. His works are difficult to grasp on the first viewing, but the more you get into them, the more interesting they become. Rashomon is one of his masterpieces that left an indelible impression on me. I absolutely loved it on my first viewing, and I couldn't get it out of my head after watching it a second time. After years of mulling over it, I finally decided to adapt this brilliant film into a Cantonese Opera. In fact, the urge to do this had struck me off and on through the years, but I could never put ideas to paper. Perhaps it was due to my lack of experience and understanding, but I always ended up putting down the pen. Now, I’m over seventy years old, and have experienced the ups and downs of life; all the joys and sorrows of this world are a path towards spiritual realisation, and I can look at the story in a new light.
In recent years, I have scripted several Cantonese Operas. Emperor Lee Kwong and Rebellious Hero were adapted from Shakespeare’s King Lear and Macbeth, taking cues from Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Ran in terms of characterisation and plot. With the experience I gained from working on these two projects, I was able to strengthen my resolution to adapt Rashomon into the Cantonese Opera titled The Asura Judgment. To tell the truth, adapting it for the stage was no easy work. I had to push myself to the limit, as the storyline of Rashomon is too flimsy to hold the interest of Cantonese Opera fans who tend to be more invested in the plot development. The film drives the story forward with its different characters – they each stick to their made-up narrative, spinning a bewildering and thought-provoking tale that exposes the dark side of human nature: selfishness, self-importance, self-conceit, arrogance, and deception. To turn this story into a Cantonese Opera, however, we have to break down the story and put it back together in new ways that serve the art form. We have to break free from the usual stage setting and lighting in traditional Chinese opera, and keep changing time and space in order to guide the audience into grasping the essence of the story with the same state of mind as when watching a film or TV drama.
Described as part of the Eight Legions in Buddhist Sutras, the Asuras are belligerent beings that are neither human, god nor demon. They have kind intentions, but have no qualms about doing evil. They are strong-minded practitioners who follow the beat of their own drums...
Artistic Director/ Playwright : Law Ka-ying
Music Designer: Tam Siu-wai
Assistant Music Designer: Yimen Ho
Lighting Designer: Leo Siu
Costume Designer: Leung Yuet-wai
Set Designer: Ho Chun
Percussion Leader: Yau Lung
Ensemble Leader: Pang Kam-shun
Manager: Yuen Ying-wah
Stage Manager: So Chi-cheong
Lighting and Set: Kwong Hing Stage Scene Production Company
Costume and Props: Everlasting Star Costume
General Affairs: Chen Kin-yat
Leaflet Information and Surtitles Translation: KCL Language Consultancy Limited
Tickets available from 21 May onwards at URBTIX outlets, on internet, mobile ticketing app and credit card telephone booking.
Half-price tickets available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. (Limited tickets for full-time students and CSSA recipients available on a first-come, first-served basis.)
Please visit www.urbtix.hk for details of opening hours of URBTIX outlets.
Save $8 per ticket for booking through the URBTIX website, mobile app or credit card telephone booking.
Credit Card Telephone Booking：2111 5999
Programme Enquiries：2268 7325
Ticketing Enquiries：3761 6661
Credit Card Telephone Booking：2111 5999
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme and substitute artists.
The programme does not represent the views of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
Speaker: Law Ka-ying
After the Show
Auditorium, Tuen Mun Town Hall
Speaker: Law Ka-ying (In Cantonese)