God of Carnage, written by Yasmina Reza, performed by Theatre du Pif at the Hong Kong Cultural Center. May 26 – 29, 2011. Performed in English and Cantonese with surtitles. Director: Jovanni Sy. Cast: Lee Chun Chow, Kathlyn Carson, Sean Curran, and Jo Chim.
Haruka worked with Theatre du Pif before doing Jean Anouilh’s Antigone and got invited by Jovanni Sy to be part of a feedback group for their rehearsal of God of Carnage nearly two weeks ago. Haruka, being awesome, being my friend, being the boss producer to my faithful scriptwriter, got me to come along with her.
They had it in one of the rehearsal rooms at the Sheung Wan Civic Centre and had about three-quarters of the full set and costumes. Of the cast, only Sean Curran was familiar to me because I had watched du Pif’s The Will to Build in 2008 (and which toured in Shanghai in 2010). Given that du Pif is one of the bigger players in the Hong Kong theater scene, it was terrific that the whole atmosphere was friendly and casual and yet nonchalantly professional and boy, did I miss the days of working onstage for the The Foundling production (in which there was nothing nonchalant about us because we were perpetually running out of time XD).
I’ll say that again, did I miss the days of working onstage for the The Foundling production. (*cough* looking at you, Haruka *cough* Hamlet *cough* Billy Milligan)
Anyway, I was thoroughly impressed by the rehearsal. It started off a bit stiff, I thought, though it might have had possibly something to do with the play’s opening itself, but it got much more engaging quickly enough. The delivery of the comedic lines were spot on (one of my favorite lines: “Is it normal to criticize someone for not being a f***ing Neanderthal?”) and the quarrels and bickering magnetic and appropriately trite, given the situation (there’s a long shouting match about a hamster). The physicality and the movements were very convincing (Lee Chun Chow hopping from sofa to table in his slippers ought to be turned into a GIF and a meme) and I really appreciated how they recontextualized the play’s original setting in France to Hong Kong (e.g. dan tat, Happy Valley – irony there, Sean Curran’s Cantonese).
A few days later, Haruka called me up again to say that Theatre du Pif was inviting us again to their dress rehearsal, full set and costumes and copies of the programme – this time on the actual stage where they’d be performing, the Studio Theatre in the HK Cultural Centre (I think I watched a Beckett performance there before). I had been thinking of buying a ticket and watching the real thing anyway except I couldn’t make it to the show dates because of previous engagements, so this was perfect (read: for free). And it was a lot of fun being led to one of the theaters in the Cultural Centre through the back doors with people wearing IDs.
I didn’t sense much of a difference in terms of performance between the first watching and the second, except I did notice that at the end of the dress rehearsal, they had Sean Curran’s character Alan end standing up and holding the tulips instead of kneeling down and picking them up as they did in Sheung Wan. I preferred the one they did earlier because it showed more effectively how someone as self-possessed and brash as Alan would have been brought down to his knees by the end. There was a huge difference in terms of audience reaction; we were a bigger group in the dress rehearsal and the laughter was more immediate and boisterous, and at times also seemingly off in timing – there was a bit of chuckling at the moment Jo Chim’s character Annette finally broke down.
Anyway, an intense and enjoyable show and I hope they had a great turnout. The play has a Broadway production and is being turned into a movie by Roman Polanski.
(Poster from Theatre du Pif’s public Facebook page)