Text by 撰文：Ava Davies
Translated by 翻譯： Li Ruixue 李瑞雪
Cornwall-based Kneehigh’s humble beginning as a community theatre workshop in 1980 is essentially the key to understanding them as a company. Led by artistic director Emma Rice, who started her career in Kneehigh as an actor before progressing into directing, as many of the company do, Kneehigh aim to create works that are artistically ambitious and visually arresting, but at the same time maintain a warm accessibility for a broad audience. They take the concept of a ‘touring theatre’ to new extremes; at their conception, they would perform anywhere and everywhere, ranging from cliff-tops to village halls. Nowadays, they have progressed to become a company with a strong sense of their Cornish identity who tour both nationally and internationally, at one point having one show in the West End, another on Off-Broadway, and another in Columbia, South America.
The company’s method of story-telling uses physicality as a primary medium, with music alongside movement creating a rich, vibrant mode of story-telling which places the audience first and foremost. This arises, in part, from their position as a regional theatre company: having a clear sense of identity and locality allows Kneehigh to create shows which are wholly self-assured and grounded in warmth and collaboration. They often create adaptations of seminal works: ‘Brief Encounter’ and ‘Tristan and Yseult’ being two such examples, with the idea being that they see their roles in theatre as being storytellers, rather than authors. An extended family as such, their pieces are devised initially in one of their many coast-side barn rehearsal rooms. There is no clear manifesto to the work which they produce: ultimately, they look to surprise and astonish, and have found that this can only be legitimately achieved through the trust they place in every member of the company which allows them to take the risks that they do. Kneehigh are therefore a company which are, in every sense, concerned with humanity, grace and humility, in the stories they tell and the way in which they work. Their thirty year anniversary can certainly attest to the power and popularity of their productions.
劇團使用形體動作作為最主要的表現方式，並配合音樂的使用營造出充滿活力的表演，深深的吸引著觀眾。這一風格和劇院的發展史有著密切的聯繫：作為一個地方劇團，Kneehigh通過劇目向觀眾傳達了他們的熱情，從而也明確了身份和定位。Kneehigh擅長將經典作品改編成頗具獨特風格的作品，例如《相見恨晚》（Brief Encounter）和《Tristan and Yseult》。比起戲劇的創造者來說，Kneehigh劇院似乎更願意將自己看作是故事的陳述者，他們的作品躲在海岸邊的穀倉中進行排練設計。劇團所產出的作品並沒有特別明確的信條，但是多年來劇團成員對公司的信任，讓他們願意嘗並承擔任何風險，使得作品總是令人感覺耳目一新。所以在Kneehigh跟我們講述了公司的故事和工作方式之後，從各種意義上說他們都是一個關注人文的，優雅的且行事謙虛的公司。30年的創建歷史足以說明他們的劇作是何等受歡迎。
Perhaps Kneehigh can best be summed up by ‘Asylum’, their travelling, purpose-built theatre tent created in 2010 which is being used in the spring of 2015 to house their internationally acclaimed production of ‘Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs)’. The tent will return to Cornwall, to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, having toured around the country and embodying Kneehigh’s simultaneous dedication to local and national performance. A quintessentially Kneehigh production, ‘Dead Dog’ is an adaptation of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’, adapted by Carl Grose and with a new score by Charles Hazelwood. The original work was conceived by Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope and written by John Gay: it satirised Italian opera and is the only piece of satirical ballad opera to remain in the public interest currently. Kneehigh have taken on the fairly niche piece with panache, creating a suitably anarchic and cheeky work which uses its source material as a springboard for an absurd, hilarious and heartfelt show. The actors involved, as usual with Kneehigh, are not just actors, but also musicians within the show who have helped devise and create the project from its conception. The original piece, with its fiercely contemporary score and plot, is echoed in Hazelwood and Grose’s version, which mixes trip hop and grime music with a bitingly satirical script focusing on corruption and big businesses. But it seems clear that the obvious radicalism of the opera itself is tempered by the heart which Kneehigh are famous for and gives the production a real sense of soul.
或許Kneehigh也可被稱為‘避難所’，這或許是因為在2010年時他們建造了專為巡演而特別建造的帳篷劇場，並且這個篷劇場將會被應用在2015年春天作為演出場地上演他們非常著名的劇作《Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs)》。在全國巡演後，Kneehigh將會秉承他們一貫的為當地人服務的宗旨，帶著帳篷回歸康沃爾，在Lost Gardens of Heligan植物園上演此劇。《Dead Dog》是極具Kneehigh風格的代表作，由Carl Grose對《The Beggar’s Opera》進行改編而成，並由Charles Hazelwood為作品譜曲。這部諷刺義大利歌劇的作品是現今唯一一部廣受喜愛的具諷刺意義的民謠歌劇。劇本原作由Jonathan Swift和Alexander Pope構思，John Gay執筆。Kneehigh憑藉這個作品在戲劇界中佔有了獨特的市場，用劇本那中看似荒謬的元素作為跳板，營造了一步滑稽且別有用心的作品。與Kneehigh其合作的演員們並不只是演員而已，還是音樂家， 參與整部劇的設計和概念的創作中來，這也是劇團一貫的行事風格。在原作中激烈的配樂在融入了Hazelwood和Grose的靈感之後，形成了融入Trip Hop以及Grime音樂風格的全新的充滿了諷刺意義的劇作。可以肯定的是，這部充滿明顯的僅僅主義風格歌劇之後在Kneehigh劇院的演一下才變得那麼的復有靈性。
Dead Dog show images – credit Steve Tanner
Dead Dog Rehearsal Images