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"The Will to Build (Revival Version)" provokes debate on cultural heritage for Shanghai Expo (with photos)

To build, or not to build? That was the question examined by renowned Hong Kong-based theatre company Theatre du Pif this evening (September 24) on the opening night of "The Will to Build (Revival Version)" for Expo 2010 Shanghai China (Shanghai Expo).

This provocative verbatim theatre is a cross-media production highlight of the HKSAR cultural programme for Shanghai Expo. It played to a full house at the Drama Theatre, Shanghai Grand Theatre.

The second performance will be staged at the same venue tomorrow (September 25).

Performed in Cantonese and English with Chinese and English surtitles, "The Will to Build (Revival Version)" is the opening programme for Hong Kong Cultural Week of the 12th China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

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

Director and performer Ms Bonni Chan said "In 'The Will to Build (Revival Version)', we revisit the dilemma between urban construction and demolition with repackaged materials and new ingredients.

"Similar to people in Hong Kong, Shanghai citizens have been impacted by rapid city developments in recent years with old houses disappearing amid urban sprawl.

"I believe that Shanghai audiences will feel connected to 'The Will to Build (Revival Version)' and find resonance on the issue of cultural preservation."

She said the five key elements in people's daily lives - space, pace, functionality, spirituality and identity - were explored while the past, present and future of Hong Kong were examined through the life cycle of buildings.

Dozens of people either involved in or affected by Hong Kong's urban planning and construction were interviewed for "The Will to Build (Revival Version)" verbatim theatre. They include property tycoons, construction workers, architects, planners, preservation activists, politicians, feng shui masters, former officials and local residents from older generations as well as the post-80s generation.

"In our production, we made an attempt to trace the history of Hong Kong from the time as British colony to the return of China. It is hoped that we will gain a better understanding of the present, help realize the full potential of our city and stimulate communication between the older and younger generations," Ms Chan added.

"It is hoped that we will gain a better understanding of the present, help realise the full potential of our city and stimulate communication between the older and younger generations."

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

To promote the concept of verbatim theatre, Theatre du Pif conducted a demonstration and sharing session for college students on September 20 at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was an extension activity organised by the China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

During the Shanghai Expo period, 60 events and activities involving some 100 performances and four visual arts exhibitions are being staged by Hong Kong in Shanghai. They showcase the city's cultural diversity, modern lifestyle and strong links to the Mainland and the world.

Other performances in October include "Danny Yung Experimental Theatre: Flee by Night" by Zuni Icosahedron from October 16 to 18. Meanwhile, performances during Hong Kong Week from October 18 to 22 will include "Spectacular for Expo" by the Hong Kong Police Band; "Cantonese Opera Performances" by Hong Kong Children and Juvenile Chinese Opera Troupe; "Swing for All" and "Contemporary Jazz featuring Ted Lo and Eugene Pao" by the Hong Kong Fringe Club; "My China Heart" by Opera Hong Kong; "Generation Singer-Songwriters Concert" by Hong Kong singer-songwriters and "A Soldier's Story" by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

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