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Theatre du Pif explores dilemma of demolition and conservation for Shanghai Expo (with photos)

Renowned Hong Kong-based theatre company, Theatre du Pif, will present its critically acclaimed production, "The Will to Build", for Expo 2010 Shanghai China (Shanghai Expo).

The "verbatim theatre" production will explore issues of demolition, construction and conservation of history and culture at the Drama Theatre of the Shanghai Grand Theatre on September 24 and 25.

Director and performer Ms Bonni Chan said: "Verbatim theatre originated in Britain and is based on research and interviews so that the thoughts of respondents can be expressed on stage.

"Spoken text and analytical arguments form a major part of this theatre genre."

Ms Chan said many people who were either involved in or affected by Hong Kong's urban planning and construction were interviewed for "The Will to Build". Their views are incorporated into the piece.

The interviewees included property tycoons, construction workers, architects, planners, preservation activists, politicians, feng shui masters, former officials and residents. Well-known personalities such as Shih Wing-ching and Christine Loh were also sought out for their witty remarks and insightful commentary.

"Our production skilfully weaves together verbatim transcripts of interviews with real people who are intimately involved in and affected by our city's obstinate will to build," Ms Chan said.

Space, pace, functionality, spirituality and identity are explored in "The Will to Build". It focuses on the past, present and future of Hong Kong through the life cycle of buildings.

Shanghai's rapid development presents similar challenges to those in Hong Kong in terms of balancing conservation with urban renewal. In "The Will to Build (Revival Version)" for Shanghai Expo, new elements and relevant responses from interviewees are integrated to cater to Shanghai audiences.

The production will be presented in Cantonese and English with Chinese and English surtitles. Presented as an HKSAR cultural programme for Shanghai Expo, "The Will to Build (Revival Version)" is also the opening programme for Hong Kong Cultural Week of the 12th China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

"The Will to Build" is a collaboration between Theatre du Pif and BURST TV, a multi-media artists collective based in London.

It premiered at the Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival 2008 as the first piece of local verbatim theatre.

Australian actress Claire Nicholls joins a strong cast comprising Sean Curran, Anson Lam, Sheung Ming-fai, Shirley Tsoi, Ivy Tsui and Benny Yu. The production team includes stage designer Charfi Hung, lighting designer Lau Ming-hang and costume designer Cheng Man-wing.

Founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1992 by Hong Kong's Bonni Chan and Scot Sean Curran, Theatre du Pif was relocated to Hong Kong in 1995.

It has since gained a reputation for cross-cultural and bilingual productions in Cantonese and English. Theatre du Pif orchestrates movements, text and images to create new productions by using a workshop and devising process. It also collaborates with dramaturges and artists from other disciplines.

To promote verbatim theatre, Theatre du Pif will organise a demonstration and sharing session on this genre on September 21 at Shanghai University as part of the programmes of the China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

For full programme details and ticketing information, please visit the Event Calendar section on Hong Kong's Expo website, www.hkexpo2010.gov.hk.

"The Will to Build (Revival Version)"
Date: September 24 and 25, 2010
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Drama Theatre, Shanghai Grand Theatre
Length: Approx 1 hour 45 minutes
In Cantonese and English with Chinese and English subtitles
Ticket prices: RMB150, 120, 100, 80
Booking hotline: (86 21) 6272 0702
Online booking: www.festivalclub.org
Programme enquiries:
Theatre du Pif (852) 2904 2030 / www.thtdupif.com
The Centre for China Shanghai International Arts Festival (86 21) 6272 0440