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Hong Kong 2019/20: The Good Person of Szechwan – The Musical by Hong Kong Repertory Theatre (Preview)

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HONG KONG – Adapted from German master dramatist Bertolt Brecht’s play The Good Person of Szechwan, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre (HKrep) presents a musical that exposes both the good and evil of humanity, prompting the audience to ponder hard choices between morality and reality.

When this adaptation premiered in 2003, it garnered six Hong Kong Drama Awards, including Best Overall Performance, Best Original Music and Top Ten Popular Productions. Critical response to re-runs in 2004 and 2011 were equally enthusiastic. Eight years on, the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre and Actors’ Family co-produce and perform this musical, injecting this contemporary classic with new ingredients.

The Good Person of Szechwan – The Musical is adapted by Victor Pang, Leon Ko and Chris Shum and directed by Pang, with Ko serving as the production’s Composer and Musical director, and Shum serving as Lyricist. Guest artist Luna Shaw appears in the leading role as Shen Teh, along with Yau Ting Fai, Lau Shau Ching, Chu Pak Him, Rick Cheung and Christopher Ying in the cast. The Good Person of Szechwan runs from December 23rd 2019 to January 3rd 2020 at the Lyric Theatre of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Bertolt Brecht was a true reformer of modern theatre who wielded resounding influence worldwide. He was adept in portraying both the good and evil traits of dramatic characters using his trademark alienation effect, allowing the audience to maintain a distance from the theatrical proceedings and judge for themselves.

In The Good Person of Szechwan, the character Shen Teh possesses both good and evil: when playing a good person, she cannot even feed herself or find shelter, and it is only by playing a bad person does she manage to survive. The story reflects the darker side of society as well as the conflict between morality and reality, showing us the vicissitudes of life.

Adaptor and director Victor Pang states: “I like Brecht’s oeuvre. Although The Good Person of Szechwan was written in 1943, the subject is still linked to our world. The critical stance against human greed and corrupt governments are still valid today. Staging a revival of this work is always timely.”

Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan is a tale examining the goodness of mankind in the face of harsh realities. Three divinities land in corrupt and dilapidated Sichuan in search of a good person, yet they find only hunger and treachery. Eventually, they encounter the only good person there: Shen Teh. Nonetheless, this cruel world has no place for Shen, who resorts to straddling between good and evil, questioning and eroding morality and humanity.

Adaptor, composer and music director Leon Ko says: “Although this musical first appeared on stage 16 years ago, our revival continues to connect closely with the times, perhaps creating even more resonance. Some of our cast and production team were veterans of earlier productions, others had seen earlier performances. Some came into contact with theatre because of the experience, while others were too young to join the profession more than a decade ago. In many ways, this musical has witnessed the growth and maturity of a generation of artists. The stage is a living platform: for our revival this time, minor adjustments are made; changes are also adapted to fit our current cast. Years ago, when actors were confronted with multi-part vocal arrangements, they were taken aback. But today, our cast handles them with ease. Indeed, we have all made progress. But what remain the same as ever are our original aspirations.”

Adaptor and lyricist Chris Shum admitted that The Good Person of Szechwan was a watershed in his own career, akin to “finding his way out despite tremendous hardship.” During the 2011 re-run, Shum explained: “When I worked with Victor and Leon, they taught me not just to fit singable texts in suitable places in the script, but to develop lyrics hand-in-hand with the composer, going with the flow of the script and fitting in with the right rhythm. A composer uses music to retell a story, sometimes skipping certain details, at other times amplifying emotions. Lyrics are texts that everyone can easily comprehend, adding a layer of emotional and tangible messages to the abstract feelings contained within melodies. Sometimes we should add a singing passage when the needs arise in a scene. This entire process is performative and creative.”

The Good Person of Szechwan – The Musical plays from 23rd December 2019 to 3rd January 2020 at the Lyric Theatre, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. For tickets, visit their website here 

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