Recently, the immersive theatre has become popular in mainland China, with some British immersive theatre companies, such as ‘PunchDrunk’ and ‘Les Enfants Terribles’, bringing their shows to Shanghai. Other companies have emerged within British theatre culture from different industries, such as Visual Reality, Augment Reality and drama education projects being accepted by many mainland Chinese audiences. Immersive fashion shows and immersive restaurants are also in progress in Shanghai.
Nowadays, the concept of theatre has been introduced to various industries, changing from the traditional setting of sitting in the theatre and watching a stage play.
For example, during London Fashion Week autumn/winter 2017, there was an ancient Mongolian-Chinese themed presentation held in the Natural History Museum for Sheguang Hu’s “Silk Road” Haute Couture Show. An exceptional location for a Chinese fashion brand, our journalist, spotted the show’s Creative Director, Mengqi He, a theatre practitioner specialising in performance arts and design.
Mengqi He created an unusual environment for the fashion show at the Natural History Museum. With her unique Asian aesthetic, the dark and the implicit, the catwalk was arranged in a square route underneath the massive skull of the blue whale, following the beat of traditional Mongolian music. The audience became quiet, and the scene seemed to transport them back to an era full of battle and blood.
The show was full of dramatic moments that, like a Hamlet stage performance, saw every single model become a character who carried their stories on stage. The way they appear on the catwalk, the way they stood and walked with those gorgeous outfits; those elements dragged the audience into the ancient world. It was a shame that the show seemed to lack a rehearsal, as the finale was slightly flat compared to the opening. However, considering the location and the heavy costume, it seems understandable that the rehearsal had been shorted.
Mengqi He expresses her feelings through visual concept, and when she met this fashion collection, it impacted her inspiration. Her direction led the audience through an experience that crossed both culture and history.
The haute couture collection itself, with its exotic elements, made the whole show special. During the daytime, the location is a major tourist spot; yet seeing the Natural History Museum during the nighttime, the stage seemed to have ancient spirits wandering around the corridors, with the music and lights enhancing the sensory experience.
Mengqi He’s theatre background certainly played a part in the visual impact, she used the lights and the first scene of the show to combine the dramatic elements. Though a fashion show can also highlight the historical background of a culture, this fashion show’s choice of location also helped to enhance this ‘immersive fashion show’.
作為與設計師胡社光’思路·名族’ (Silk Road)的視覺總監 （Show Creative Director）她將整個秀場氣氛制造地十分特殊，帶著亞洲人獨特的審美，黑暗而含蓄，整個舞臺起初只是被留出簡單的空間給模特行走，隨著蒙古族傳統音樂的波動，頭頂天花板上吊著的巨大鯨魚骨頭，安靜的人群，這些仿佛將我們帶回了那個充滿野性的異常世界。說它是時裝秀，它更像是一場哈姆雷特般的舞臺劇，每個模特都是一個角色，背後都是故事，他們出場的方式隨著燈光和音樂，行走的快慢，那些奇藝的裝扮，好像快要把人吸進去。這是一場即使不懂時尚也能完全看得心潮澎怕的視覺盛宴，服裝，場地，燈光和出場方式的結合都是十分有創意。令人有些遺憾的是排練似乎不夠充分，模特行走的路線和速度十分平淡，包括最終亮相似乎也有些’勉強’，但是在這樣的場地和厚重的服裝，想必後臺排練時間也是十分緊張。
這也許與何夢琪作為視覺總監（Show Creative Director）所擁有的戲劇背景相關，她非常巧妙地運用了燈光和出場方式融入了戲劇元素，即使是一部時裝秀，不僅完美突出了時裝的背景，還選擇了如此歷史性的建築，可謂是一場“沈浸式的時裝戲劇”。
Apart from this, we knew that Mengqi had various relevant drama industry experience, including theatre communication and drama education.
As a contributor for ART.ZIP, she has also been authorised by Patrick Tucker (author of Secret of Screen Acting, 1994) to translate his Shakespeare analysis and acting tips for actors in the Chinese language, in order to share his knowledge.
ART.ZIP: What makes you want to work in the theatre industry? ”
HMQ: I love storytelling, I was the only kid in the family, so I was always alone and watching animation, films and reading books, and I imagined the feeling of being the characters. I thought this is where I started to dream about working in this industry. I wish I can share interesting stories and my vision with others, to have a resonance.
ART.ZIP: You have been working in many productions, such as design, acting, translation and education, why is this?
HMQ: Theatre can be used in many ways, not only when we are standing on the stage, this is what I believe. Every day we are someone else, we are in our characters; we are a mother, we are also a kid, we are seniority, we are also part of the society. Our characteristic changes when we face different people in our daily lives, and this made me realised that how similar our lives are compared to drama and theatre. The theatre came from our daily lives, and we should not separate theatre from the daily life since it’s part of us like any other arts format.
Translating books and articles are like a hobby of mine, I found the text sometimes get lost or misguided which depends on the translator’s knowledge and backgrounds, so I decided to translate text when I have time, for free. Most of the text is chosen by myself if I think they are interesting, or some theory that has not been discovered in China. For example, the studies of Shakespeare, in China it is still very classic, but when I met Patrick Tucker and Jennie Buckman, they taught me how to explore Shakespeare in a completely different way. So I feel that it’s my responsibility to share this with others, to help the Chinese people bring fresh thoughts into Shakespeare. I tried my best to translate it as close to the author’s thoughts, plus using my educational backgrounds in drama.
Same as the theatre education, that communication in our daily life is very important, and there are many pieces of training based on British actor’s training. I collaborated with the drama school I graduated from, the Central School of Speech and Drama, to set up a training system of Creative Communication and we’re trying to promote this new education program in China.
翻譯是作為我的一個愛好，我發現文字在翻譯時會根據譯者的喜好與知識形成偏差，所以我決定在時間允許的情況下，做一些翻譯類的工作，他們大部分都是我自己挑選並覺得有趣的內容，或者是在中國還沒有的理論。例如莎士比亞的學習，在中國仍然是很古老的帶入年代的學習方法，而實際上我認識了Patrick Tucker 與Jennie Buckman之後，他們將莎士比亞與戲劇表演的帶入更加鮮活，甚至是顛覆性的，所以我覺得自己有義務將這些知識分享出來，盡我所能翻譯得貼合作者的思考，因為我在英國學習戲劇與從事戲劇的背景，做起來更加精確。
戲劇教育也是同理，對話與溝通是我們生活的重要部分，而通過戲劇來提高溝通技能在英國已經很多了，但是在中國才剛剛起步，甚至很多人還是不明確它的意義，我希望在中國能夠普及戲劇應用這項概念並引起重視。我與我的母校皇家中央演講與戲劇學院(The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama)創立了（Creative Communication), 在中國正在嘗試推行。
ART.ZIP: About Immersive Theatre and Virtual Reality…
HMQ: I really like these two concepts. One is to merge the boundary of reality and virtual reality, and the other concept is to bring the imagination into the reality. It is like to have a daydream, which is a very exciting adventure for me. I hope in the future these concepts can be developed a bit more. In China, there are already few immersive theatre shows brought over by British theatre companies. I also got invited to design an immersive dance show in Shanghai before this Christmas, and I am very interested in VR technology and exploring the ability to combine VR with installations.
ART.ZIP: Any future projects to share with us?
HMQ: I hope in the future I could continue to do what I am currently doing, I am very interested in multimedia and drama theory, like what I mentioned before, to develop something by using VR, or combine with body movements like dance, these are the areas I would like to explore in the future.