Friday, 27 March 2015

三十而立,還看《二泉映月》

備註:此文原應「國際演藝評論家協會」(香港分會)邀約撰寫,已刊載於該會《藝評》季刊2015年3月號

不知諸位看官會用哪些特徵來說明自己的身分呢?父母?家世?種族?國籍?性別?宗教?年齡?出生地?居住地?語言?政治立場?

「身分」二字,雖屬尋常,其實相當複雜,三言兩語極難說得清楚。最簡單的解釋,大概是怎樣回答「我是誰」這問題。「身分」也好,「我是誰」也好,就像沙漠中一根竹竿、怒海中一塊浮木,讓人有所倚靠,感受到自己鮮活生命的質感,理解自己與外在環境的關係。一個人選擇以甚麼詞彙來形容自己,哪些要說,哪些不必說、不想說,其實都反映了他對身分認同的取捨。

然而,有些關乎身分的基本因素,自己卻作不了主。例如父母、家庭、性別、出生地等,都是命中註定,半點不由人。雖說現在科學發達,改造身體已沒甚麼稀奇;人類離鄉背井、遺棄子女,更是古已有之,但始終無法抹煞當日與生俱來、曾經擁有的事實。

既然人的身分可以隨著客觀環境與主觀心態而改變,如何回答「我是誰」,就變得異常困擾,但又無法逃避。也許因為這樣,歷來不少文學作品也以探索、尋找身分為主題,從古希臘神話的悲劇人物Oedipus,到金庸小說《天龍八部》的蕭峰,無不如此。Oedipus為了追查身世之謎,才揭發自己始終逃避不了弒父娶母的慘痛命運。蕭峰經歷杏子林之變後,以探究真相、報仇雪冤為安身立命的樑柱,最後卻成為他的催命符。

由於我對文學作品所呈現的「身分」問題深感興趣,所以去年得知「浙江小百花越劇團」為慶祝劇團成立三十周年,推出新編劇目《二泉映月》,敷演失明樂師華彥鈞(又叫「瞎子阿炳」)跌宕坎坷的人生,並以尋找生母為主線,不禁浮想連翩。細想華彥鈞飽經離亂、窮愁潦倒,以他的故事為浙百三十周年誌慶之作,不是悲喜顛倒、大煞風景了嗎?此外,為甚麼是華彥鈞?為甚麼是《二泉映月》?華彥鈞是江蘇無錫人,難道他與發源於浙江嵊州的越劇,有甚麼鮮為人知的淵源?宣傳文稿所謂「清澈的泉水中,湧動著阿炳一生的悲涼,也象徵生命的永恆」,指的又是甚麼?

孔子曰:「三十而立」,不是說人到了三十歲就要成家立室,而是人長到這個歲數,應該可以獨立自主,具備足夠的學識、能力和意志,自行面對人生各項難題。適逢浙百「而立之年」,誌慶劇目既非歌功頌德的應制之作,也沒有甚麼躊躇滿志、激揚砥礪的內容,卻選擇以「尋母」貫穿全劇,不免令人暗忖,這是否團長茅威濤所說的「總結過去,展望未來,意義重大」?

既要「總結過去」,就不能不釐清自己的身分,重新認真的回答一遍「我是誰」。追本溯源、回顧歷史,原是重新認識「我是誰」的不二法門。三十年了,浙百高低起伏的一路走來,從青澀、迷惘、艱困到今天的從容與自信,面對依然渾沌曖昧的未來,的確是暫且駐步、靜心回顧的好時機。從這個脈絡來理解,《二泉映月》採用「尋母」為主線的象徵意義,自是呼之欲出。

儘管我還沒看到《二泉映月》,也刻意迴避有關劇情的報道和評論,當日得知「尋母」這主線時,難免又聯想到茅威濤曾提出「認祖歸宗」的理念。

去年九月,茅威濤應西九文化區戲曲中心邀請,來港與香港八和會館主席汪明荃就「城市需要戲曲嗎?」作對談。席間她就提出,越劇才滿一百歲沒多久,由於受到西方文化、現代思潮等不斷衝擊,表演系統不及崑劇、京劇等完善,於是著意學習其他劇種的表演技巧,恰當地運用到越劇中。這就是她認為的「認祖歸宗」,也是越劇表演方式的「輸血功能」。

這麼看來,《二泉映月》「尋母」所象徵的身分探索,至少有兩個方向──越劇從何而來、往何處去,以及表演技巧上的借鑑、繼承與超越。適逢剛滿「而立之年」的浙百於三月底重臨香江,茅威濤和她眾位姊妹將如何回答「我是誰」的難題?我且拭目以待。

註:附圖為直接引用第四十三屆香港藝術節網站連結之劇照,謹此說明。

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Fight Night

Jointly presented by Ontroerend Goed and The Border Project, Fight Night challenges me with an unprecedented, unimaginable and unforgettable experience that almost prompts me to re-evaluate what theatre means and how many possibilities it may generate, in addition to the thought-provoking political overtones.

Not surprisingly, in view of the current political climate in Hong Kong, local commentators tend to focus on the political lessons and inspirations of the performance, but I find the format itself even more interesting. The heavily interactive format and the engaging plot are completely out of my limited, conventional understanding of what may be called "drama". To me it is a successful and inspirational attempt to blur and break the barriers on and off the stage, although few critiques seem to have discussed this aspect. Neither did the director and playwright Alexander Devriendt offer any light from this perspective in his interview with Katrien Brys published in the programme booklet.

In retrospect, the performance, or the "reality game show" as it was reported in the South China Morning Post, began long before the moderator declared it open. It started when each spectator was given an electronic voting device as he or she walked into the theatre. The performance was built on the five questions thrown at the audience, who were invited to choose the best answer by pressing the right button on the voting device. Results were shown on the four-sided screen hanging over the central stage after each round of votes were cast.

While it remains a mystery whether the results shown truly reflected the choices of the audience in that particular performance, I didn't cast any doubt on the genuineness of everything until, if I remember correctly, the third question. I can't no longer remember what it was, but there was a click in my head as if something had smelled fishy. As the plot moved on with candidates voted out one by one, and the dramatic developments unfolded with exceedingly active participation by some spectators, I came to realise that it was perhaps one of the best designed and devised manipulation ever seen, and participated, on stage. I mean, the audience seats were also part of the stage, although we didn't know in the first place.

Simply put, I was lured into participating in the voting exercise without knowing in the first place that the results could have been distorted, manipulated or even fabricated. More intriguingly, even though my doubts grew towards the end of the performance, the temptation of pressing the button on my voting device remained hardly resistible. I answered all five questions dutifully with little hesitation. Indeed, I did what I was told – to exercise my free will of choice when I wasn't really sure whether or not it mattered. I just assumed that it did.

The compellingly interactive format of Fight Night resonates well with Marshall McLuhan's famous catchphrase, "The medium is the message." The performance calls into question the genuineness of the poll results, the meaning of the vote, representation of and relationship between majority and minority, respect for individualism and collectivism and so on, you name it. Without enabling on-the-spot participation of the audience, the message would not have been as profound and articulate as it is.

When asked whether every generation carries a responsibility or an intellectual obligation to change the world they live in for the better, Mr Devriendt said in the interview that he would replace the word "change" for "question". "Not everybody has that intelligence, that verbal power and the persistence to keep on hitting nails on the head. I don't count myself among them," he was quoted as saying. "I'm a theatre maker, not a great intellectual thinker and nor a social critic. In the best case I give food for thought to the people who come to see my shows, as some sort of service-hatch." I can't agree more with him. One of the reasons why there are so many confrontations and hostilities that are seemingly irreconcilable is that too many people are eager to make a difference, but too few of them would bother to spare a moment to ask some serious questions about their assumptions and propositions, let alone discerning the problems from the symptoms that they are supposed to deal with. Identifying the problem is never easy, more so in developing the viable solution. If we really want to solve a problem, asking the right question is the foremost and essential step.

The creative format of Fight Night does hammer into the audience the urge to scratch our head over something that we might have taken for granted for too long. On the political front, it raises a number of meaningful but difficult questions such as what voting really means, its relationship with individuality versus collectivism, free will and freedom, majority versus minority, the politics of representation and so on, you name it. In view of the current political climate in Hong Kong, the audience was challenged to ponder the key elements of democracy, such as candidacy (who can run for the elections and who can't, who determines the qualifications, how the nomination and screening works etc.), the vote (what it means, what it can do and what not) and the voting system.

I found the choice of five candidates on the stage, two women and three men, most interesting and thought-provoking. Apparently they were chosen by the production team and the audience had no idea whatsoever as why and how they became eligible to stand up for themselves. But the audience was asked to vote for their favourite candidate before anything but the names were introduced. How much do we care to know about the candidates before we cast our vote? How do we verify that the information on all those campaigning materials is truthful and trustworthy? Why should I vote for this one and not that one? What can and should we do to ensure the best qualified candidates are eligible? What do we mean by "the best"? How qualified are we to determine the standards to assess candidacy? These were the first questions I asked myself before I cast my vote for one of the female candidates.

In the middle of the performance, the host, played by the director and playwright himself, tried to interrupt and seized candidacy, but he was eventually ousted. Then the three remaining candidates took over the stage and ran the rest of the performance on their own, while at the same time competed among themselves to be the ultimate winner. For those who are increasingly frustrated and impatient with the political gridlock in this Asia's world city, the metaphoric references and inspirations could be colossal.

On the theatre side, it also inspires the audience to rethink what constitutes a theatrical performance, how far the interactive elements can take off in such performances, and how many more possibilities the theatre setting can offer. How much the audience are willing to be involved in the performance without knowing in the first place? What sort of stage-audience relationship would emerge from such kind of engagement? How the audience's involvement should be evaluated with regard to the overall effectiveness and quality of the performance? These are some of the interesting but unanswered questions that popped up my mind as I walked slowly out of the theatre.

Strictly speaking, Fight Night may not be classified as drama but some sort of live performance with active participation of the audience. There is a specific setting, but not a full-fledged storyline per se. Rather, it is more a process than a story. The audience are fully engaged throughout the process via the voting devices, a very contemporary way of breaking the fourth wall of the stage, if I may, but whether their actions bring any change at each skilfully designed turning point remains unknown. The metaphoric significance can hardly be underestimated. Breaking the barriers on and off the stage with a voting device is incredibly clever, and particularly effective against the political backdrop of Hong Kong. Although it sounds somewhat too much to ask for, I do look forward to another eye- and mind-opening surprise at the theatre in many more years to come.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew

Before dawn today Lee Kuan Yew, widely regarded as the founding father and chief architect of modern Singapore who had served as prime minister for more than three decades, died at the age of 91.

His eldest son and incumbent prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, gave the Singaporeans and the rest of the world an emotional address on television. He spoke in English, Malay and Mandarin Chinese, all in one go, as an apparent attempt to showcase the cultural diversity of the city-state.

Perhaps the late Mr Lee is best remembered as the founding father and chief architect of modern Singapore, although it remains a subject of debate what such descriptors actually mean. Obituaries in the global press seem to focus more on his achievements in securing independence and prosperity for the city-state, which is more or less comparable to Hong Kong in size but of which the landscape is far less dramatic. While the press haven't lost sight of the firm controls and restrictions that somewhat characterise the general visitor's impression of Singapore, the prevailing tone remains positive. Check out some of the obituaries and news reports on the prominent media worldwide:

BBC news

The Wall Street Journal

The Guardian

CNN

The New York Times

Al Jazeera

The Economist

Some more reads from the local media:

The Stand News

Apparently I don't know enough to make any meaningful comment on Mr Lee and Singapore, which I have only visited once for some personal research more than fifteen years ago. All I can say is that Mr Lee is just as controversial as any other great men and women who had their names engraved in human history. Anyone can make his or her own judgment, but I take the liberty to refrain from doing so simply because I don't think I have enough information or knowledge to jump on the bandwagon. Silence out of recognised ignorance is perhaps the best tribute I owe Mr Lee. May he rest in peace. Condolences to his family and the Singaporeans.

One achievement of Mr Lee's rule in Singapore does impress me remarkably though. Notwithstanding the fact that Singapore and Hong Kong share great similarities in history as British colonies with comparable strategic locations and values, they turn out to be remarkably different in terms of political system, socio-economic structures and everyday life. The English language, for example, has never enjoyed the prominence and permeability in Hong Kong as it does in Singapore. To me, the mediocre standard of English among the people of Hong Kong after all those years of compulsory education, and their reluctance to use English as a means of expression rather than a recognised ticket to success and higher social status, is by all means puzzling and incomprehensible. This is clearly indicated by the number of page views of my English posts, which is significantly lower than those in Chinese. More interestingly, curious viewers whom I have never met have asked why there are English posts on this blog from time to time, which are mostly seen as a form of boasting rather than a personal choice of expression. In fact, why not? Why can't we be good at more than one language at the same time? Like millions of people here, I started learning both Chinese and English at a very young age, and isn't it perfectly natural to be able to express myself in both languages after almost forty years of continuous learning and usage? What is it so special to warrant a fuss?

I wonder if anyone here in Hong Kong has bothered – or will do – to conduct a comparative study on such a conspicuous difference by looking into the deep-rooted cultural and social milieu of Hong Kong and Singapore, among other factors, that have made the cities as they are today. Presumably, the predominance of ethnic Chinese in the population of Hong Kong, which has always exceeded 95%, compared to less than 80% in Singapore, should have a role to play, but this hypothesis will need truthful and accountable evidence to substantiate. Rather than lamenting over the deterioration of Hong Kong here and there, it is time to learn from the experience of Mr Lee's Singapore in English education if we still think it is important to raise the standard for our long-term competitiveness and sustainability.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Leave Her Alone

Ms Chai-yan Leung, who shares the same initials with her father, Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung, has hit the news headlines again over the last couple of days. Netizens and the online media picked up her Facebook posts and made a full-blown fuss. Columnists, journalists, political activists and anonymous people are either ridiculing her and her infamous parents, or consuming her personal grievances in whatever way that pleases them. In most cases, she is compared to the political predicament of Hong Kong, whereby its people want Beijing to leave them alone, but Beijing seems inclined to tighten its grip and surveillance over the increasingly disobedient, obstinate, ungrateful, and even rebellious people of Hong Kong.

I have no intention whatsoever to jump on the bandwagon of consuming someone else's personal life. Whether or not Ms Leung is a naughty, reckless daughter of Chief Executive desperate to seek public attention, or whether she is simply playing a clever trick to embarrass her parents by stirring a public uproar against them, is none of my business. What I am concerned though is whether her accusations of physical abuse is true, and if so, whether there is anything we can do to stop it, and prevent it from happening again.

Actually Mr Leung was quite right by pleading the public to leave her daughter alone. But that was just part of the story. It seems to me that Mr Leung and his wife need to task themselves with the mission impossible of trying to open their mind and understand how and why their daughter thinks in the way she does, even though they do not necessarily agree with her. Problems in parent-and-child relations need to be sorted out between the parties involved. What counsellors and social workers do are little more than giving advice from an impartial, rational (though not necessarily correct or relevant) perspective, but the responsibility of accepting the advice and taking action upon it still lies with the parents and children concerned.

Detested to see newspaper headlines and magazine covers dominated by mugshots of Ms Leung from her Facebook or Instagram posts, as if she has become a wanted fugitive or a living mummy to be hunted for, may I plead for human conscience to leave her alone. The media hunt out of nothing but ruthless and insatiable curiosity will only add to her suffering and make her another victim of public abuse, although she doesn't seem to realise yet.

Monday, 16 March 2015

一臺大戲(下)

西九文化區「粵劇新星展」比一般商業演出更具規模和氣派,不只因為表演陣容人強馬壯,更因為《佘太君掛帥》《辭郎洲》都是具有深厚文化基礎、觀眾耳熟能詳的歷史故事。歷史是一個族群不同世代之間的共同根源和記憶,也是身分認同的重要憑據。雖然我們平日未必察覺,遑論重視,但這不等於它就不存在。其實歷史就像我們呼吸的空氣一樣,看不見、觸不到,也不管你喜歡不喜歡,早已成為我們生命的一部分。也許因為這樣,取材自歷史的戲文,在我看來總有一種難以言傳的親切與沉重;而這份沉重,跟故事的結局是團圓或遺憾,沒甚麼直接的關係。為甚麼會這樣呢?也許這份沉重,直搗人心深處,更容易引起觀眾共鳴,所以能賦予戲文一般言情、武打或公案故事難以企及的恢弘與厚實。坦白說,這正是我一直偏愛《帝女花》的根本理由。

儘管有人可能覺得農曆正月頭搬演《佘太君掛帥》和《辭郎洲》,滿臺披麻掛孝、玉石俱焚實在大吉利是;但回心一想,場面這麼熱鬧、陣容這麼整齊的群戲,劇目選擇似乎不多,喜氣洋洋、適合新春期間上演者更少。在我看過的少數劇目之中,只有《六國大封相》符合條件,但它畢竟是具有民俗儀式性質的「例戲」,不是故事完整、為了娛樂觀眾而編寫的長劇。本來《三帥困崤山》也不錯,但同樣有一場先軫在靈堂勸諫晉襄公的戲,何況此劇去年十月剛在油麻地戲院「粵劇新秀演出系列」上演過,時間太近,觀眾記憶猶新,吸引力自然稍減。因此,我相信藝術統籌羅家英選演《佘太君掛帥》和《辭郎洲》,應是經過深思熟慮的。

能號召多名演員不計角色大小攜手演出,已是難能可貴;盡量安排各人有機會一展身手,更屬不易。從兩齣戲有條不紊、主次分明的場面調度,可以清楚感受到羅先生為這次演出所付出的心力非同小可,著實教人感動。例如《佘太君掛帥》楊業與七個兒子前往「雙龍會」前夕,佘太君率領眾媳婦和兩個小女兒送別,即有十八個有姓名、有身分、有戲演的人物同臺。要按照劇情和地位輕重來安排他們的排列位置、表演機會等,光是想一想已經令人頭疼。又如《辭郎洲》開始時,安排四男四女穿起少數民族服飾,表演一段糅合武術元素的舞蹈,男的翻騰跳躍、女的揮舞雙槍,大概是為了表現宋室飄搖之際,嶺南百姓枕戈待旦,準備隨時為國效命的忠義與英勇,先讓觀眾瞭解故事背景和氣氛。這些教人印象深刻的場面,如果沒人統領全局,相信不易排演出來。因此再次想到,香港粵劇如要提升藝術水平,是否需要認真考慮設立藝術總監或導演一職,負責指導或統籌演出的各項細節,而非只限於新秀匯演或藝術節、戲曲節之類的大型專題節目?

恕我吹毛求疵,是次「粵劇新星展」在某些細節仍有未盡善之處,可以再謀改善。例如換景時間較長、字幕錯別字甚多等,遺憾不算小。最近在香港藝術節欣賞《鴛鴦淚》,以暗燈、不落幕的方式換景,時間較平日大幅縮短,而且換景時有樂師即席演奏過場音樂,氣氛不致中斷,效果甚好,值得借鏡。當然,如果主辦者認為落幕換景是為了延續在戲棚讓觀眾有機會、有時間吁一口氣,呼朋喚友、高談闊論的遺風,我只能無言以對。我不敢說這有甚麼不對,因為這是價值取向的問題;何況有一晚亦聽到有觀眾向友人抱怨,如今在戲院看戲規矩太多,不像小時候在戲棚那麼自由自在。儘管我堅信到戲院和戲棚看戲是兩碼子事,觀眾的心態和行為──甚至演員的態度──也應該隨之調整,但這真的談不上誰是誰非,一切視乎觀眾抱著甚麼態度來看戲。

此外,舊劇節奏拖沓,但求表演豐富而忽略了情理與戲劇張力等問題,亦尚待解決。兩劇之中,《辭郎洲》唱段既多且長,文辭也欠精鍊,有些唱段彷彿是為了讓人人有機會開口而增添,甚至把辛苦經營的緊張或激昂氣氛沖淡,十分可惜。例如第一場由許大娘自報家門,再介紹蕊珠、雷俊、張達與陳璧娘夫婦等曲文,篇幅太長,令人不耐。其後陳璧娘、蕊珠和銀嬌苦候張達等人興師勤王的消息時,輪流長篇大論的演唱,同樣減低了心焦如焚的壓迫感。相比之下,《佘太君掛帥》的節奏明顯較緊湊明快,氣氛張弛有道,文武交錯,劇力與戲味也能兼顧,十分難得。例如第一場,首先由楊六郎亮相、楊七郎表演一段為父親挑選坐騎的功架,全程沒有曲白,然後引出楊氏父子出征在即,佘太君率眾送別的劇情,以唱段和唸白為主。緊接第二場就是武打激烈的金沙灘大戰,第三場則是楊七郎魂歸天波府,向母親訣別,同時說明自己被潘洪陷害的慘況,又是另一段以唱為主的表演。不過金沙灘大戰時,楊氏父子沒能擋格幾下刀槍就兵敗如山倒,與後文楊門女將長驅直進的氣勢太懸殊,彷彿楊氏父子浪得虛名,武藝都比不上一門孤寡似的,令人啼笑皆非。如果金沙灘的武打場面稍為延長,別教楊家兒郎轉兩個圈就給殺掉,同時精簡一下結局時兩狼山受困與決戰的武打場面,以縮窄楊門諸將前後兩戰遼軍的實力差距,既可使生、旦兩組的表演機會更平均,表演也會更合情理。

就三晚長劇而言,「粵劇新星展」氣魄宏大,眾人演出用心、嚴謹而投入,令人看得血脈賁張。雖說仍有未盡善處,始終也是難得一見的大型演出;以《佘太君掛帥》的演出規模和水準,可說不遜於內地某些製作精良的重點劇目。然而香港與內地戲行體制不同、生態迥異,如此人多勢眾、排練純熟的演出,也許只能在藝術節、戲曲節的場合才有機會看到,但眾人付出的心思、汗水和摯誠,才是最教人感動、最值得珍惜的。希望臺前幕後憑著這份幹勁與誠意,繼續精益求精,傳承前賢的技藝之餘,可以進一步提升香港粵劇的藝術水平。

附錄:「粵劇新星展」演出劇照

Saturday, 14 March 2015

一臺大戲(中)

今年西九文化區戲曲中心「粵劇新星展」,安排兩組演員主演全劇《佘太君掛帥》《辭郎洲》,每組各演兩晚,掀起了臺上臺下兩番熱鬧。雖說「人比人,比死人」,比較也未必公道,但既是有緣同臺,自然無可避免。坦白說,觀眾遇上這些場面,更見目光如炬,誰高誰下一目瞭然,評頭品足不亦樂乎,心情總是愉快的。儘管不近人情,卻是千真萬確。臺上演員務求脫穎而出,也會分外賣力。所以說,舞臺是炎涼地,實在半點不假。

我深信人人各有短長,比較其實沒甚麼意思;臨時決定補看第二場由不同陣容主演的《佘太君掛帥》,就是想瞭解一下兩組人演來有何分別。我在意的是差異,不是高低。畢竟彼此天賦、師承、訓練模式均不一樣,根本無從比較。例如有些人扮相特別亮麗、搶眼,身手也了得,但聲線和唱功稍遜;有些人嗓音嘹亮、唱功上乘,但武藝略有不及;有些感情分外投入,表情細膩,別有一股懾人的魅力;有些則唱、唸、做、打的造詣較平均,令人看得愜意;又有些演員揣摩和表達人物的能力較強,雖然未必有哪一項技巧特別矚目,但無論他們演甚麼角色,總能教人信服、令人動容。如此千差萬別,你叫我怎麼比?勉強要比,對大家都不公平。所以我無意逐一指出他們表演上的優劣,只想讚揚一下他們用心演出的誠意與努力。這是有目共睹的,絕對毋庸置疑。只盼日後他們在其他場合的演出,儘管各項條件和環境因素未必盡如人意,仍能貫徹這份認真和嚴謹的態度──這是觀眾對演員最基本的期望。

此外,我觀察到一些易受忽略或尚待改進的細節,希望提出來作個參考,亦敬請識者指正。

戲曲是講究情感交流的表演藝術,只有觸動人心,使觀眾共喜同悲,才算得真正上乘的表演。表演技巧自然離不開唱、做、唸、打四大法門,但怎樣把這些技巧運用自如,與戲文、人物融為一體,而不會淪為純粹賣弄技巧的歌唱或雜技表演呢?除刻苦練習外,更須將戲文揣摩熟透,投入人物的思想與行為模式之中。細讀劇本、深思熟慮,當然有助投入角色,但「理解」與「投入」之間仍有相當長的距離。竊以為專業演員應該努力提升理解與表演能力,盡量縮短兩者的差距,從「我在演劇中人」的階段,朝著「我就是劇中人」的層次邁進。能達到甚麼程度,就是演技高下的指標。至於到底應該怎樣做,才能達到這個境界,我不會演戲,自然無法置喙,大概要各師各法,須按照自己的悟心、資質與修為,來探索最合適的途徑。

在《佘太君掛帥》、《辭郎洲》等人多勢眾的群戲,不少場面都有多名演員一字排開,站著當布景板,誰能集中精神,配合劇情和人物性格而作適當的反應;誰在魂遊太虛,或者跟臺下一樣變成了看戲的觀眾,一眼就看得出來。配角或跑龍套的沒幾句曲子或唸白,長時間站在一旁,無疑特別容易分心走神,對演員來說既是考驗,也是磨練。但演戲本來就是要放下自我,體驗不一樣的人生,全副心思應該貫徹始終於戲文裡,才會讓人信服。即使演個默不作聲的丫鬟、士卒,也得有個丫鬟或士卒的模樣。這當然不易做到,但如果能夠克服困難,表演效果自然勝人一籌。

沒輪到自己表演的時候,始終保持戲文中的情緒,固然知易行難;在表演武藝或功架的時候,仍不忘兼顧劇中人應有的情感,更是難上加難。例如在戰勝敵人之後,往往會有一段「下場花」的表演,藉著一連串舞刀弄槍的動作來傳達人物興奮、喜悅或得意洋洋的心情。但似乎很多人都忽略了這一點,臉容總是繃得緊緊的,沒半點打勝仗的歡欣;就算完成動作後一下子凝住的「扎架」瞬間,表情也放鬆不了。大概這與個人技藝的純熟程度有關,如果排練不足,或者欠缺信心,演來難免戰戰兢兢,投入程度也要打折扣。但畢竟表演技巧還是為了表達劇情和人物而存在,倘若過分強調技巧的精純與難度,就容易脫離戲文,變成純粹的技術表演。怎樣才做得技術與戲文水乳交融、恰到好處,應是專業演員自我鞭策的目標之一。

鑼鼓喧天是粵劇音樂的一大特色,也是操控表演節奏與場面氣氛的重要工具。理論上,粵劇演員應該熟習鑼鼓點,使做手、腳步和身段符合鑼鼓的節奏,表演才會徐疾有致,更覺可觀。但似乎不是人人都能掌握鑼鼓的節奏,表演或快或慢、參差不齊,已是司空見慣,有時甚至嚴重到你有你敲、我有我做似的,令人費解。如今年紀漸長,看戲漸多,愈發體會到粵劇鑼鼓美學的精深與精采。有時聽到某個鑼鼓點,心情自然而然的緊張或愉悅起來,或者情不自禁跟隨節拍,伸指輕敲大腿助興。既然我單憑看戲也對鑼鼓培養了一丁點兒感覺,為甚麼有些演員卻好像不太懂鑼鼓似的?是哪裡出了問題呢?

附錄:「粵劇新星展」演出劇照

Friday, 13 March 2015

一臺大戲(上)

西九文化區戲曲中心正在動工,三年來於海傍搭起的「西九大戲棚」無以為繼,今年遂移師高山劇場新翼,舉辦為期十天、由羅家英統籌及指導的「粵劇新星展」,上演兩部足本全劇《佘太君掛帥》《辭郎洲》及多齣折子戲,由去年參加「粵劇新星展演」的十二位決賽入圍者輪流主演。

看了兩晚不同陣容的《佘太君掛帥》、一晚《辭郎洲》,出乎意料的愜意,簡直有點情緒激動,同時又百感交集。

那麼高興,最主要是看到臺前幕後同心協力,呈獻一場場氣勢磅礴、陣容鼎盛、行當整齊、表演嚴謹的「大戲」。廣東人慣稱粵劇為「大戲」,但平日常見的演出規模參差,實在難以稱「大」;然而這次「粵劇新星展」,無論演出陣容、劇本、表演技巧和製作水平等領域,以及整體演出所流露的風度與氣魄,才是名副其實的「大戲」。眾位新星與臺前幕後所有工作人員眾志成城、悉力以赴,固然應記一功,然而我認為最應該感謝的,還是羅先生。相信沒有他的不辭艱苦、熱心投入,就成就不了這一臺大戲。從節目介紹所見,從挑選劇目與演員陣容,造型及宣傳,以至培訓與排練,羅先生也親力親為,著實教人感動。細看其中一些配角甚至跑龍套的,平日都是獨當一面的正主兒或資深演員,想是因為羅先生號召而參加演出。即使他們戲份不多,表演同樣一絲不苟,直至完場時仍未卸妝,而是穿著整齊戲服謝幕,甚至維持劇中人的身分表演一小段默劇作餘韻,然後才正式向觀眾鞠躬道謝,這份熱誠與投入也教人肅然起敬。

可惜我看的三場俱不滿座(但不知是有票沒賣去,抑或有人買了票卻臨時缺席),無論是地點、劇目或其他原因,總覺得很可惜。如果連咱們這些土生土長的觀眾也不支持香港的傳統文化與藝術,誰來代勞呢?還奢談甚麼本土意識與文化呢?難道咱們得指望粵劇界也出現一位像劉克襄老師那樣,比咱們更瞭解、更愛惜、更著緊本地文化與發展的外地人?就算真的有這麼一個人,力量畢竟有限。與其乾坐著慚愧、嗟嘆,為甚麼不想辦法出一點力?其實做個好觀眾,就是最實際的支持。

談論戲文之前,不得不讚高山劇場新翼的設計,的確做到現代戲曲劇場的一流專業水準,更添觀劇樂趣。這是一座中型劇院,可容納六百名觀眾左右。場內座位舒適,高低距離適中,即使來了個六呎高的大塊頭,也不必擔心他會擋住後排觀眾的視線。兩排座位之間的通道也夠寬敞,觀眾固然出入自如,不必全排起立迎賓似的;就算翹起二郎腿看戲,也是綽綽有餘。此外,音響效果相當不錯,不知是設備簇新,抑或吸音木板選料上乘、功效顯著之故。須知《佘太君掛帥》和《辭郎洲》都是人多勢眾、武打連場的群戲,鑼鼓敲得震天價響,卻沒有往日吵得頭昏腦脹、耳鼓生疼的不適之感;倒像是把刺耳的雜音過濾掉,同時保留了慷慨激昂的氣氛,實在值得一讚。

雖然我至今仍堅信應以保護文物為優先考慮,港鐵沙中線不該倉卒通車,以免破壞珍貴文物;但舟車勞頓的往高山新翼看了三場大戲,心裡不禁閃過一絲前所未有的動搖:「如果沙中線可以早點通車就好了。」

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

春雨

一樹嬌蕾映翠塘,披寒瀝雪笑初陽。
無那夜半風催雨,未老紅顏葬淼茫。

Monday, 9 March 2015

《王子復仇記》

踏入乙未羊年,戲曲舞臺依然熱鬧。正月未完,已一口氣看了五場不同風格的粵劇,新編作品有之,傳統劇目亦有之,既是一場場目不暇給的視聽盛宴,給腦袋和心靈的挑戰也不可小覷。明明憋了一肚子話,偏偏剪不斷、理還亂,費了好一頓功夫,才勉強弄得出個頭緒來。

好了,言歸正傳,先談新編粵劇《王子復仇記》。

顧名思義,此劇改編自莎士比亞原著Hamlet。其實臺灣「當代傳奇劇場」和上海京劇院已分別改編過Hamlet,浙江越劇好像也有;但若論粵劇版,則這齣由黎耀威執筆的《王子復仇記》,可能是首度改編。

《王子復仇記》製作精良,行當齊全,場面頗具氣派,布景、燈光、服飾均相當講究,可見主辦者認真從事,誠意十足。只是戲服大都採用寬袖的大漢裝樣式,不設水袖,演員穿起來更見雍容、肅穆,也符合皇室人員和顯宦高門的身分,但表演上少了水袖優美、飄逸的揮舞,總是略感失色。音樂編排則異常精采,烘托氣氛效果一流;尤其是鑼鼓點的運用,變化多端,聽來頗有新鮮感。儘管有些段落鑼鼓音量較大,彷彿要把卜魚和皮鼓敲碎了似的,仍是不可多得的佳構。像我這種音樂修為低微得可憐的觀眾,居然也深深感受到音樂上非比尋常的震撼力,編曲和演奏水準之高,可見一斑。

所謂「人為財死,鳥為食亡」,人類為了權勢、財富、情欲或名譽而機關算盡,甚至不惜自相殘殺,古今中外無日無之。報仇雪恨、伸張正義,也是良知未泯者的共同願望。Hamlet既以謀朝篡位、昭雪沉冤為故事骨幹,稱得上沒甚麼文化隔閡,無論是哪個國度的觀眾,總會一看就懂,甚至感同身受。此劇屢獲戲曲界青睞,改編不輟,相信並非偶然。

粵劇《王子復仇記》的情節和人物,較原著頗有刪削,但保留了太子遇上父親鬼魂喊冤、搬演先皇遇弒戲文、太子愛侶及其父親死於非命等關鍵情節。時代背景則改為五代十國之中相當烏煙瘴氣的南漢。故事編來尚算流暢,演出亦一絲不苟,可惜曲詞偏重抒情,敘事較少,尤其在一些節骨眼上的描述未夠清晰,部分細節亦銜接不上。例如太師鄭馬倫,出場時睥睨群臣、恃權自矜,又說他先皇遇弒時亦在場,令人覺得他與篡位皇叔乃一丘之貉。然而後來他奉命刺殺太子,卻突然顯得左右為難,甚至不惜私放太子,自刎全義,前後言行不一,令人莫名其妙。皇后李氏於先皇暴斃後,旋即改嫁繼位皇叔,出場時從容自若,毫無悲戚、無奈之態;其後則向兒子剖白苦衷,又對皇叔異常冷淡,同樣教人費解。若在曲詞和唸白上稍作補充,或加強表情與身段的表演,自能更有效地表達人物複雜的處境和心情。

若問全劇最令人印象深刻的部分,我認為是鄭太師之女如菲得悉父親亡故、太子遠遁後,精神大受打擊那一段。仔細看去,其實她並沒有真的瘋掉,大概是倉卒間無法接受父親橫死、太子拒愛的殘酷現實,所以把自己的意識封閉起來,就像把自己反鎖房間之中,說甚麼也不肯出來。瞧她一邊採花,一邊喃喃自語,彷彿在探索甚麼東西;但只要稍覺不妥,或者思緒稍微觸碰到喪父、失戀這兩個痛不可耐之處,馬上又躲到自己築起的意識圍牆裡。反過來說,倘若她真的瘋掉了,太子與她重逢之時,哪有這麼快就認得對方、恢復神智了呢?李沛妍扮演情緒起伏極大、精神深受困擾的鄭如菲,雖只佔兩場戲,猶幸唱、做俱佳,感情投入,尤其是〈落紅〉一折,實在教人心疼。倘若身段再豐富一點,或者多用水袖表達鄭如菲精神恍惚的狀態,加強與前文溫婉可人時的對比,相信可進一步提升視覺效果和感人程度。

《王子復仇記》連演三場,我看的是最後一場,幾個老友也不約而同地看了首兩晚。據我現場觀察,上座率不俗,也吸引到不少外籍和年青觀眾,包括本身不是戲迷的舊同事在內。且不論這是因為宣傳有道或其他原因,總是可喜的。事實上,此劇製作認真,頗具氣派,演員唱、做亦用心投入,誠意可嘉。除字幕錯別字太多,令人失望外(但據多年觀劇經驗,這可能已成通病,未必是個別團體可以解決的問題),不失為可觀的新作。如能仔細檢討劇本,修補破綻,並加強表演技巧的運用,也有一定的重演、重看價值。

Friday, 6 March 2015

元宵記夢

細雨舞重天,迷濛透翠簾。
春絲猶未剪,夙願竟能圓。
席暖扶頭醉,衾寒抱月眠。
情深原是夢,曉覺付雲煙。