Art on the Fringe spreads in the city

2020-01-10 07:51     Comment:0

Shows at Fringe festivals are known for pushing boundaries and taking creativity out of the box and into the streets, bringing art close to people, and the programme at this year’s Macau City Fringe Festival is no exception by getting locals’ liking what is on offer as can be seen with extra performances and sold-out shows.

The 19th edition of the event organised by Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) begins today with interactive and immersive shows allowing spectators to explore the city through art over the next 10 days.

Attracting Eyeballs

One of the sold-out shows is “Macau Murder Tour”, presented by the local Compass Association of Creative Theatre, headed by Wilson Li Wai Wing, the tour’s scriptwriter.

Tickets to all four sessions of the tour were snapped up within the first two hours of going on sale, considering there was only a two-line description of what it is all about in the official booklet and website.

“It’s shocking,” Li told MPD Weekender this week, “Murder cases attract eyeballs I guess.”

It certainly attracted his eyeballs. He had the idea of making a Macau murder tour five years ago after seeing a video of a murder tour in Hong Kong’s Yau Ma Tei district.

But he never took action because of the lack of information, scarce media reports and the challenge of separating hearsay from fact on the murder cases in Macau.

After failing to get into the previous Fringe festivals with standard theatre productions, Li decided to give the Macau murder tour a shot, and when it made it on to this year’s programme, Li went into full detective mode.

Li said his team of three – Cindy Mok and Nada Chan – spent two months researching the details, studying court documents and going through piles of newspapers to track down some of the most gruesome murder cases in Macau.

“People in the neighbourhoods were reluctant to talk about it, they say they still have the chills from it,” Li said of the time they did site checks to confirm that the materials they collected are true.

“There are going to be people who will say they know a different version, and in case that happens, I can show them the information we gathered to come up with the version here,” Li said.

The tour begins at 9 p.m. where the audience of 15 will each get a headset to listen to how the story develops with images projected onto a canvas set up inside the minibus during the ride to the crime scenes of three murder cases, which are known as “Eight Immortals Restaurant” in 1985 (which has been adapted into a film), “Shredded Chicken” in 1996 and “Headless Limbless Corpse in Garage” in 2011.

Li said that as there has been overwhelming interest in the tour he’s been flooded with messages asking for tickets, he is looking into organising it again in June and making it permanent, for which he would need to prepare Putonghua and English scripts.

Paper World

For something lighter, Canadian theatre group Macromatter headed by Robert Leveroos will present “Fragile”, which tells the story of his experiences and feelings of growing up and growing old through a book-sized theatre with all scenes and settings made of paper with his own drawings complete with video camera animation.

Leveroos told MPD Weekender in an e-mail interview that the title of the show is “Fragile” because it is depicted in the first scene; it describes the delicacy of the performance, and personal emotions.

He explained that the audience will see one of the characters with several moving boxes as their home is being packed up, and the standard message that most people are familiar with are printed on removal boxes is “Be careful, contents are Fragile”.

“I think this is a message we should remember when interacting with people – we all have fragile contents,” Leveroos said.

Fragile also reflects the delicacy of the way the show is performed, as a lot of care and concentration go into the scene changes because the paper theatre is made of very small and very lightweight drawings and figures.

“Sometimes something will fall over or move, but that is always okay. It brings attention to how fragile the whole performance is. Something as soft as a breath can knock something over in the scenes,” he said.

The title also refers to the fragility of emotions, relationships and lives entirely. “The process of growing older is a delicate one,” he added.

The show was first performed in Vancouver five years ago, and Leveroos said he was surprised that people enjoy the quiet and slow experience in being in such an intimate space with other audience members to collectively dream through these images.

“It’s quite a special environment and we don’t get so many opportunities to do that in our lives these days. To slow down our pace and breathe together,” he said.

People also showed great interest in the drawings he made, and are fascinated by the mechanisms that make the figures move and unfold.

“These are very simple tricks and book binding techniques and yet on camera they read very mysteriously,” Leveroos said, “Everything is very tactile and people want to be able to get up close and feel them to understand them. That’s very satisfying to me because everything is handmade in the show, I love sharing this part with people – seeing how people can be inspired by small and handcrafted works.”

He said he hoped the audience here would also enjoy the experience of being together in a space to collectively dream together.

“In this show, without words, you get to do the work of interpreting what things mean. Some moments may be creepy and scary, some sad, some nostalgic of your own childhood perhaps,” he said, pointing out that visual performances can express some things that can’t be explained in words.

“They elicit a feeling, and sometimes an intrinsic understanding, but these may not have a literal translation to words. I hope people will jump on board with this experience, trust themselves that their interpretation is valid, and put the pieces together to build their own narrative from the images. I look forward to sharing this quiet and reflective space together,” he said.

In the Mood for Love

Another popular show is “Cinematic Duo”, where spectators go to the movies when in reality they are playing out their own love story just like a romantic film.

This site-specific virtual theatre production has been created by Chan Si Kei from local Magical Lab group and Co-coism from Taiwan.

Chan told MPD Weekender yesterday that she was inspired by the popular matchmaking reality TV programmes on the mainland that sparked conversations on relationships.

Without giving away too much of the content of the show, director Huang Ding-Yun said that everyone needs love and everyone needs to practise love, likening the performance as a rehearsal on how to fall in love.

“Cinema is safe and great for a first date, because you don’t need keep talking and the film can be a topic to discuss afterwards, and while you’re watching a film, you’re spending time together,” Huang said, pointing out people feel moved by a film, whether it was good or not, because a scene or the message reflects on the viewer’s personal experience, family or relationships, and moves the viewer to have that moment in the film come true in real life.

Chan added, “There are also different reasons for staying single, but there also a situation when people see a romantic film that hits right in their heart and motivates them to look for love.”

One of the show’s performers, Kong Ka Man, shares the view.

Although her role is acting in the show, she’s playing herself in the context of love, which she finds helps bring out a truer version of herself.

“You watch the characters of the film, and think I’ll never be like that but then in reality you imitate those characters,” Kong said, besides letting herself open up, the show is also a space for her to practise love.

Since the audience is part of the show, the content differs depending on how much they are immersed into it.

“We let the audience play a role in the show because that’s how a community works together,” Huang said, “Conventional theatre would be just conveying a message to the audience, it’s a one-way thing, but when the audience are participants, we have discussions and express our thoughts freely.”

Chan said that one of the challenges preparing the show was casting, as actors each had different thoughts and expectations about the show.

“Some didn’t want to show their true self in the show, some were not sure with the physical contact involved, some asked how far they need to go because they worry they’d upset their other half in real life,” Chan said.

But for Kong, “I find it mysterious and fun.”

The show during the Fringe Festival is in Cantonese and tickets are all sold out, but there are already plans for re-runs with sessions in different languages..

This photo provided by IC shows a site of a crime scene for the “Macau Murder Tour”.

Wilson Li Wai Wing of “Macau Murder Tour” poses for a photo after speaking to MPD Weekender in Areia Preta on Wednesday.

This photo provided by IC shows the production of paper theatre “Fragile”.

This photo provided by IC shows poster campaign for “Cinematic Duo”.

“Cinematic Duo” producer Chan Si Kei (centre), director Huang Ding-Yun (left) and actor Kong Ka Man pose for a photo after speaking to MPD Weekender in Cinematheque Passion yesterday.

This photo provided by Chan Si Kei shows actors in rehearsal for “Cinematic Duo”.

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