The 52nd HK Arts Festival .Feature

Unity in Diversity: Listen to the Voices of Youth

Text / Vera Yuen

In Hong Kong, where land is scarce and the population density is high, an open field may seem like a luxury. And because of their uniform size, football fields are often used as a unit of measurement for large areas, one that is universally understood. On familiar spaces such as these, Canadian theatre company The Chop presents the alternative theatre work Playing Fields, which breaks down the boundaries of theatre, allowing participants to reflect on their own lives, and discover the unity and diversity of the young generation.

The show Playing Fields started off with a simple question: "How do we have fun in a space that doesn't belong to us?", which evolved into an examination of space and sense of belonging. The team decided to perform the show in Ireland, Canada and now Hong Kong, as they have all been under British colonial rule at some point. Anita Rochon, co-creator of Playing Fields, tells FestMag that the ubiquitous field is used as a recurring motif that connects audiences from different places, leading them into a meditation on land.

Playing Fields uses sound as the primary medium of the programme and interactions with the audience. Twenty-two audience members sit facing each other on the field wearing individual headsets and listening to recorded interviews with teenagers aged from 13 to 17. Rochon says The Chop was interested in initiating a dialogue with young people because the transitional phase they are experiencing involves a unique combination of emotions. Their sensitivity about various issues aligns perfectly with the company's curiosity, while providing youngsters with "a non-judgemental space for communication". The production also allows these ideas to be exchanged between participants in a similar manner to the way balls are passed during sports, stimulating each other's thinking.

In addition to the dialogue, the audio will also instruct audience members to move around the field. Rochon stresses that this will not involve any "silly" actions, but rather utilise the nature of the venue to make the audience observe the surrounding spaces from different angles and pay attention to the people passing by. These well-designed interactions, whether auditory or sensory, result from The Chop's intention to make audience members "see the world through someone else's eyes".

Despite the wide scope of its subject matter, Playing Fields is mostly about personal self-reflections. Participants will be asked, for example: "What are some of the things that makes you proud?" The message is that by thinking about land, we are also thinking about ourselves, with Rochon adding: "A fish doesn't think about the kind of water it lives in. It's just water." And during their quest for individuality, audience members will also find common ground. 

The Chop—Playing Fields

Date: 23-24 Mar 2024

Venue: Memorial Lawn, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park, Sai Ying Pun

Details: https://www.hk.artsfestival.org/en/programme/The_Chop_Playing_Fields?