Urban Diary
未來故事 永續香港|Sustainable Future, Hong Kong Tales

TANG Shu-wing: Sound and Fury on Stage

TANG Shu-wing is a prominent stage director, actor and educator in Hong Kong. He is currently the Artistic Director of Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio. Tang used to study and work in Wan Chai, it was only in 2016 that his studio moved from Wan Chai to Kwai Chung. He first came in touch with drama in high school societies. He was also part of a joint-school drama organization. In his memory, the old Wan Chai landscape consists of old tong lau, Hoover Theatre, open stalls, Southorn Playground, and marine soldiers in the red light district. In retrospect, Wan Chai has gone through dramatic changes in subsequent years.

After graduating from college, Tang moved to Wan Chai. The Southorn Playground is an iconic social space in the area, "Although Wan Chai is a busy district, the audience area in Southorn Playground is an interesting space." Although both Hennessy and Johnston Road are busy traffic ways, the Playground allows people to sit, relax, and think. In 2004, Tang returned to Wan Chai as Dean of the School of Drama in the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. Concurrently, his studio also resided in the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Working in Wan Chai North, Tang used to frequent a chain coffee shop out of convenience, which soon became a hub for artists and freelancers alike.

Tang wrote and directed the local drama Detention, which details the story between three naughty male students and three well-behaved female students in detention. The drama relies solely on action and body language, and has shown for more than 50 times since 2011. It has also been staged in the Edinburgh International Festival. With the script's success, Tang's studio was sponsored by the Wan Chai District Council to become the resident theater studio of the Hong Kong Arts Centre

Indeed, the play was not unrelated to Wan Chai. It premiered in Arts Centre's Shouson Theatre, and has also been staged in the open space of Comix Base. The different setting induces different audience reception. For Tang, open space performances must deal with the issue of noise and crowd control, which means a wholly different mind-set for the actors and supporting workers.

From studio to open space, Detention garnered favorable reviews. For Tang, the Morrison Hill Road Playground near Queen Elizabeth Stadium may be a good place for another show. However, who could afford renting a long-term studio for rehearsals and storage in Wan Chai. Thus, many artists have opted for cheaper industrial buildings in the city's remoter areas.

The Comix Base, which used to be the historic Green House, was preserved because of its unique history. Although new public spaces are always a welcomed addition, Tang thinks it is more important for art to penetrate into local communities. He emphasizes that a good theater studio must demonstrate a vision for sustainable art development. The job of an artistic director is to lead the way so that a space or theater could sow its unique seed of art.