The Stories Behind International Joint Production
Text by Harry Liu
我們曾經在第15期雜誌中聚焦了英國青少年劇場，重點研究了他們是如何將“劇場”與創意實踐、人文教育以及觀眾培育有機結合到一起的。在那一期的雜誌中，我們采訪到了將科學實驗與講故事完美融合的戲劇作品《能量秀》的導演Martin Lamb， 並隨著他探索了關於《能量秀》臺前幕後的故事。繼2013年倫敦科學博物館內首演後，《能量秀》還緊接著在英國進行了35家劇院的全國巡演。而現在，在2018年8月9日，《能量秀》搖身一變被改編成了中文版的《能量密室》，站在了中國的舞臺，為中國的孩子們帶去快樂。已經在北京保利劇院首演後的《能量密室》正於中國20個城市進行全國巡演中，演出將持續到12月3日。這個中文版的《能量密室》由Performance Infinity公司與北京精英集團合作制作，Martin Lamb改編劇本，在中國取得了巨大的成功。
In the 15th Issue, we focused on British theatre for the young and examined how theatre, creative practice, humanistic education and audience cultivation are interwoven organically. We also interviewed British Director Martin Lamb, whose self-directed and co-written production The Energy Show has transformed the London Science Museum into a magical and playful world infusing scientific experiments with children’s fun. After its debut in the London Science Museum in 2013, the production embarked on a national tour of 35 theatres in the UK. In 2018, The Energy Show was adapted for Chinese audiences. Under the name Science Detective, it has been bringing joy to young people in China. Having successfully premiered on the 9th of August at the Beijing Poly Theatre, the production is now touring 22 cities in China until 3 December, 2018. Produced by Performance Infinity, Beijing Elite Theatre Group and the core creative team of The Energy Show Martin Lamb and Janet Bird, Science Detective has been playing to packed houses and been received well by the Chinese media and audiences.
隨著中英文化交流推進，不同形式的文化藝術互動愈發頻繁，多元化趨勢也越來越強烈, 越來越多的像《能量密室》一樣的國際合作創作作品被搬上舞臺。今天我們采訪到《能量密室》的項目經理以及文學統籌丁玎，來談談國際聯合創作背後的故事。丁玎曾以項目經理以及助理導演的身份加入過多個大型國際聯合創作項目中，做出的劇目也廣受好評，其中包括英國皇家莎士比亞與廣州話劇藝術中心合作制作劇目《第十二夜》，觀眾評論為“既忠實嚴謹又創意無限，是在廣州看過的與中國文化結合的最完美的莎翁作品。”；英國導演Natasha Betteridge與廣州話劇藝術中心合作制作劇目《奧利安娜》，媒體評論為“充滿戲劇張力，讓我們看到了自己”；蘇格蘭舞蹈家Janis Claxton與中國山東省藝術研究院聯合創作舞蹈作品《花姑子》， 被媒體評論為”近年來濟南舞劇票房最高的作品“，並且該作品還於2017年12月12日在倫敦巡演.
Along with the rapid development of UK-China cultural exchanges, we can see greater diversity in the cultural exchange events, including interactions between different art forms and cooperation between various international artists, increasing the number of international collaboration theatre productions presented. Today, we interview Miss Ding Ding, who is the project manager and dramaturge of Science Detective, to discuss the story behind these international theatre cooperation projects. Ding has been engaged in multiple large-scale international theatre cooperation productions as a project manager and assistant director, all of which have been received well. Her work includes the theatre production of Twelfth Night, a joint production of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Guangzhou Dramatic Arts Centre. An audience member described it as “precise and creative, perfectly combining the production’s original flavour with Chinese culture, the best Shakespeare production I have seen in Guangzhou”. She was also involved in Oleanna, a co-production between British director Natasha Betteridge and the Guangzhou Dramatic Arts Centre, which the media described as “full of dramatic tension, enabled us to see ourselves”. The dance piece In Between, on which she worked with Scottish choreographer Janis Claxton and the Shandong Cultural and Art Research Centre, was praised by the media as being “the highest grossing dance piece in Jinan in recent years”. This production also made an appearance in London on the 12th of December, 2017.
How did you get into the various international theatre cooperation productions projects initially?
丁玎：我非常喜歡戲劇，這可能是最大的原因，進入到一個“黑匣子”裏面，讓自己沈浸在別人的故事中，與來自不同文化背景的藝術家們交朋友，合作，一起講述有意思的故事，這一切都非常吸引我。我在英國讀完藝術管理的研究生後，在2014年成立了自己的公司Platform X. 並開始做國際戲劇巡演以及戲劇節策展項目。在工作中，我發現英國和中國戲劇產業之間的差距，這包括了創作環境、文化政策以及體制的不同，中國戲劇產業還很年輕, 在發展之中，劇院需要質量高的作品在中國的舞臺上演，創意團隊渴求外國優秀藝術家的經驗和新思維的碰撞，這些需求有著蓬勃戲劇產業的英國可以給予滿足。而反而言之，正因為中國戲劇行業在發展之中，其潛力也非常大，不停新建落成的劇院，迅速增長的觀眾數量也可以為國外藝術家們提供更廣的國際舞臺，面對更多新的觀眾群。認識到這一點後，我一直在想如果這中間多一點點紐帶一座座橋梁來填補空缺，就可以實現資源互補。漸漸地，我開始利用身邊資源為中國劇團以及藝術機構推薦英國藝術家與他們合作創作，也很幸運地開始加入很多大的中英聯合創作項目中。
Ding Ding: I love theatre, that’s, first of all, the biggest reason. Going into a “black box” to immerse myself in other people’s stories, make friends with like-minded artists worldwide, to share time together for months being creative in order to do storytelling based on different life experiences makes me feel very excited. After obtaining a master’s degree in Arts Management in the UK, in 2014, I founded a company named Platform X for doing international touring and theatre festival curating projects. At work, I found a gap between the theatre industries of Britain and China, and this gap exists in the creative environment, cultural policies and systems within the industries. The Chinese theatre industry is still young and developing, with lots of newly built theatre venues demanding high-quality theatre productions. Creative teams crave the experience of international artists, and mushrooming theatre audiences are thirsty for the collision of new ideas. In the UK, the theatre industry is flourishing. There are lots of talented artists who need broader international stages and new audiences. I was thinking that if there were bridges to help to fill the gap between, then the two countries could share resources and have the advantage of mutual aid. Step by step, I used a network to introduce British theatre artists to Chinese art organisations and started to take part in some large-scale international cooperative productions.
What do you think the importance of this kind of cooperation?
Ding Ding: I think international cooperation productions not only enable resource sharing, but they also allow theatre productions to reveal new vitality through the cooperation among artists with various cultural backgrounds and skills. New voices, special perspectives, and diversified ideas enable theatre productions to more closely relate to this changing world and help audiences to find resonance. Also, the process of co-creation is very important and interesting as well. We get close to each other through storytelling and have real connections. The process offers international artists learning opportunities in terms of understanding each other, absorbing different cultural traditions, gathering various ways of telling stories and sharing experiences.
What’s your role exactly in international theatre cooperation productions?
Ding Ding: If I have to use a general term, I will define my role as being a “bridge”. Besides the management and coordination of the whole project, as the “bridge”, my most important responsibility is to take part in rehearsals and creation processes. In detail, my role varies in different projects depending on the nature of the project. For example, in the dance piece In Between, my role as dramaturge makes me responsible mainly for adapting and shaping the story. While, in some other theatre productions, my role is the assistant director.
Can you explain to us your role in Science Detective?
丁玎： 在《能量密室》中我的角色除了是項目經理，也是文學統籌。當我的合作夥伴Joanna Dong和我在倫敦科學博物館看到這個兒童劇後，我們對於這種通過通過聽故事的方式在歡笑中獲取科學知識的作品感到非常精細，決定將這個作品也能搬到中國的舞臺，讓中國的年輕人去分享這份歡樂。我們用了半年的時間來準備籌備這個項目，我負責項目的聯系溝通與相關機構開會，直到項目立項，我們又用了另外約半年的時間去將這個作品改編為中文版，與藝術家們去國內采風，訪問了當地科學博物館，小學以及巡演場地。也見了演員並且與科學團隊做了相關實驗。在精打細磨中將劇本最終改編成了適合中國演出的版本，並最終登上了中國的舞臺。
Ding Ding: In Science Detective, I am not only the project manager, but also the dramaturge. When my business partner Joanna Dong and I saw The Energy Show in London, we were amazed by how fusing science with storytelling could ignite children’s passions for the subject. We decided to bring it back to China to enable the young Chinese audiences to share the joy. After over half a years’ preparation, we communicate and had meetings with related parties, the project was set up. Then we used another half a year to adapt the play to the Chinese version. I went on several research trips with the writer Martin and the set designer Janet to China, during which we visited local science museums, primary schools and touring venues, did auditions and conducted experiments at the Beijing Institute of Technology and, together, we adapted the script and translated it to Mandarin. Finally, after a year’s effort, the play debuted on China’s stages.
What challenges have you met when doing international cooperation productions?
Ding Ding: First of all, the obvious problem is that we have to overcome the language barrier. Interpretations during rehearsals not only require being a master of words but also having abundant stage experience and a good understanding of the script. Secondly, the two countries’ theatre people have very different working methods and also differ in the definition of the responsibilities of some jobs. I, as a “bridge”, will try to help the creative teams communicate smoothly and put forward my own suggestions so that both parties can fully understand each other. For example, Chinese creative teams including designers and actors who are sometimes accustomed to following the director’s ideas and seldom voicing their own thinking, I will help the foreign director first understand the difference, and then, according to the director’s habits, help inspire the creative team, enabling them to feel comfortable to fully exert their own initiatives, to better express the director’s intentions. Moreover, the most obvious challenge I found is cultural differences. A work can become “un-acclimated” when an international cooperation production is implemented in China, and it may be difficult for it to resonate with local audiences. Thus, during the creative process, I will work with the team to adjust scenarios, details and emotional expressions to make the production more in line with the aesthetic habits of Chinese audiences.
Can you give us an example of the challenge you’ve met when you are doing collaboration productions?
Ding Ding: When we are doing Oleanna with a script written by David Mamet in 1990s in America, the understanding of this production’s subject cannot be based solely on its words in the script, but must also be interpreted according to the context the writer constructed and the social environment. The challenge of this production is how to make the creative team and Chinese audiences enter this context and how to adjust actors’ performing states. In view of this, we conducted lots of research on the American education system at that time, misuses and abuses of language, political correctness. We also did lots of practice to adjust the actors’ states in combination with the contemporary social context of China. Another example is when we are doing the Twelfth Night. How to make the audiences in China get a touch of Shakespeare and at the same time understand his work became the biggest challenge. During the rehearsal, we act like “detectives” to analysis the script beat-by-beat, the actors will use their own words and understanding to interpret the lines and I will retouch and localize the script according to the practical situations arising during this process. Also, we made changes to the puns and jokes to customize them to Chinese cultural tradition. What’s more, we did workshops for training the actors in order for them to understand the unique Shakespearean-style language. We also retained the rhythm and breathing pattern of reading verse during the rehearsals, in order to keep the author’s “original intention”.
What do you think about the future of international theatre cooperation productions?
Ding Ding: I think it will be the main trend for theatre exchange projects in the future. We are preparing several international theatre cooperation projects for launching next year, including dance pieces and theatre productions. Also, I am making preparations for directing my own children’s play, bringing together artists from China and the UK to tell a series of stories from Chinese folk fairy tales.