Poon Wai Sum
Artistic Director
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Examining life's creases and folds, fashioning cultural landscapes
What makes Hong Kong so unique is its geographical accessibility, the many twists in its history, and the juxtaposition of diverse cultural traditions, as well as its requisite openness and tolerance. I consider them Hong Kong’s advantages. We are committed, whether in original works “made in Hong Kong” or adapted and imported repertory, to present a broad vista, to connect with the times with open arms, to engage with the human spirit and to uphold our heritage, crafting a contemporary theatre that is emblematic of Hong Kong and worthy of this place. 
The Hong Kong Repertory Theatre just celebrated its 45th anniversary. For our 2023–24 season, we use the motto “Life’s creases and folds” in guiding our productions, opening new chapters, forging a new path. When the earth’s surface shifts, subterranean strata belonging to different tectonic plates crease and fold, thus forming mountains and valleys. Life is comparable in that human beings are constantly in motion. Caught between a single moment and eternity, our emotional palettes collide as we experience life’s ups and downs. With sincere hearts, we delve into a fine selection of stage works examining life’s creases and folds, sharing with the audience visceral experiences ranging from emotional outbursts to the calm of placid waters.  
May is an auspicious month to sound the gong and start everything anew. We launch the season with The Isle, an updated version of my work from three decades ago. At that time, I was a young man making reckless proclamations about love and mocking the world’s candour. Times have passed, flora and fauna on the island and my own words have since been scoured, but what has been discarded and what remains are still palpable. The Isle is directed by our three newly-appointed Assistant Artistic Directors: Fong Chun Kit, Lau Shau Ching and Yau Ting Fai. Now at the height of their powers, they dare to innovate on solid foundations they built throughout the years. These three directors are rational and passionate, joining all six hands in creating something new celebrating the lingering fragrance that is the isle. 
July is the time for fun! Fong Chun Kit injects Chinese martial arts elements into Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin, formulating a new comedy about love and marriage in Scapin in Jiānghú, Chap. 2023 that serves as a tribute to the 401st anniversary of the French comic master’s birth. Marriage should be a matter between two people. Yet romantic love buckles under the pressures of the heroic world of swords and daggers. Molière’s pen is a sword that whittles the absurd. Fong sounds the alarm on the east yet attacks from the west, piercing a hole in our bizarre world today. Deep meanings are hidden in the hilarious moments of martial arts chivalry.
Come September we wax nostalgic as a lady transports herself from the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. A rare beauty who excels in the arts and letters, she is fiercely independent, daring to love and hate, even giving up her life for family and country. Praised as “a woman warrior and belle” by historian Chen Yinke, Liu Rushi ranks at the top among the “Eight Beauties of Qinhuai River”. As dynasties change, one is caught in that historical moment “to-be-or-not-to-be”. I’m very curious how people shoulder the unbearable lightness and weight of being, so I pen and direct Liu Rushi, my Dear in search for an answer. 
November is opportune for beginning long journeys, and we find ourselves in Moscow. Anton Chekhov’s insights in his plays and substantial number of novellas, treasures in their respective genres, have left many in awe. I selected 11 stories, each striking at our hearts and challenging our intellect. As I journey through these novellas, I create Moscow Express, directed by Lee Chun Chow. I’ve long held to the belief that Lee is an actor and director who has “attained the wisdom of Tao”. Although he has moved to Canada, he returns to the Hong Kong stage, guiding our travels through time and space, observing the ways of 19th-century Moscow and seeing our own world reflected therein. 
December is a month marked by reunions as we greet the homecoming of a great advocate. Need I say more about The Impossible Trial – a musical? I don’t think so. But I must remind theatregoers who missed out during the pandemic: If you don’t want to miss out again, you should pull your trigger now. Apparently, many who saw the premiere run are adamant to fight for tickets again. Are you worried? You’d better be. Also, I must congratulate Leon Ko, Chris Shum, Cheung Fei Fan and Fong Chun Kit. Together, you have created a milestone of Hong Kong original musical theatre, a gem that stands radiant.  
0324 is a good time for critical thinking. Our season ends in March 2024 with co-directors Fung Wai Hang and Octavian Chan bringing contemporary British playwright Robert Icke’s The Doctor to Hong Kong. An incident about healthcare goes viral, inciting the public into controversial debates on religious, racial and sexual discrimination. The truth is constantly deconstructed, twisted to the extreme, making us ponder “post-truth” and life in today’s media landscape. Although Fung left the HKRep last September, she is keen to bring this fine work on stage, returning not only to direct but also to play the title character. How fortuitous is that? We eagerly await your return.  
Listed above is the sailing schedule for our Main Stage. 
Our Black Box launches its 2023–24 season with Landing to Blossom. Our playwright is a soft-spoken gentleman, yet he can be ruthless. In this play, an unconventional family is strung up and caned without creating a din. Fragments of love and hatred that litter on the ground create a mosaic of an era. I’ve said this before, please take note of Kwok Wing Hong, a badass among playwrights. Director Yu Hon Ting is a theatrical triple-threat: an excellent playwright, director and actor. Now a member of the HKRep, Yu is like a fish in water, and our pond is all the merrier. For our second stop, we revisit Sœurs, a tour-de-force about two women born of the same ilk, both ferocious and sensitive. Because of pandemic measures last year, French playwright-director Pascal Rambert only managed to work online with the cast, and our outstanding female warriors—Karrie Tan and Mercy Wong —used their consummate skills in playing with, against and alongside each other, whizzing the drama to maddening heights. This time, Rambert comes to Hong Kong to work with the team, ensuring an even more blistering production about family bonds.
Our third stop is a crime scene in The Spoon. At tether’s end, a man resorts to become a hitman. Well, it does confirm the perennial adage about survival of the fittest. However, he is limited to using one tool of destruction—a spoon! Does it make sense? Playwright Alfie Leung extends his imagination, creating a cruel yet realistic tale illustrating “fittest survives and everyone else dies, and there is no rhyme or reason”. Indeed, Director Yau Ting Fai spoons out all shades of emotion in this parable about life. The final stop in our Black Box season is The Bucket. In a virtual renaissance age, four Westerners deeply influenced by Chinese culture jointly profess an oath of brotherhood: “We ask not the same year, month and day of birth; but wish to die on the same year, month and day”. Who can predict that one of them coughs out blood and dies within minutes? Since the others only have one more day to live, how do they spend their remaining time? Playwright Hui Chun Pong has a knack for creating dramatic scenarios and devising interconnected characters engaged in exhilarating tug-of-wars, where everything is twisted and deformed, yet so real it could be you and me. 
The Spoon and The Bucket both came into being thanks to The Open Platform, which the HKRep established to nurture and develop original local plays. Our season also heralds the relaunch of our Theatre Literature Department, as we strengthen its reach in establishing the “Project Kite” to attract young playwriting talents, to give voice to you, and to pen our stories, so even more scripts can take flight and connect with thousands of golden strands dancing in the air. Finally, I have an equally momentous piece of news to share: the HKRep received support from the Development Bureau of the Hong Kong SAR Government in renovating an erstwhile site in Jordan (former Portuguese Community School, also known as Escola Camões) as the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre Education Hub, and we expect to open this facility by the second half of 2023. With this new home base, our theatre education endeavours will be equipped with renewed energy, fulfilling our mission of “learn a better life”, “ask for a better life”, “create a better life” and “build a better life”.
We put in such hard work because we want to help advance Hong Kong culture, one brick at a time, so as to live up to the promise of this place.
This self-introduction is rather long. I thank you for reading it to the end. 
All aboard! Set sail! 
Poon Wai Sum
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