Thursday, 20 August 2015

七夕遣懷

共醉金樽琥珀紅,今宵去歲與誰同?
堪憐此夜無秋雨,隔斷情天萬丈虹。

Friday, 14 August 2015

《糟糠情》

趨吉避凶,原是動物的本能,人類也是一樣。但歷來也有不少人為了一份感情、一種信念、一點執著,願意放棄一己私利,甚至犧牲性命也在所不惜。粵劇《糟糠情》裡的宋弘,就是這麼一號人物。

宋弘於歷史上真有其人,東漢光武帝時曾任大司空五年,掌管各項水利、土木工程。然而後世沒有忘記宋弘,並非因為他建立了萬世不拔的功業,而是他回應光武帝試探的兩句名言:「貧賤之交不可忘,糟糠之妻不下堂」。至於宋夫人的身世,《後漢書》〈宋弘傳〉隻字未提,只說宋弘被免職後「數年卒,無子,國除」。已故編劇名家秦中英就憑著這兩句千古名言,添枝增葉、補缺拾遺,敷寫了一齣劇情流暢、人物生動、感情豐富、深刻動人的傳奇佳作。

話說宋弘追隨劉秀反抗王莽暴政,混戰中受了重傷,為孤女鄭巧兒所救。兩人互生情愫,共結連理。劉秀定鼎洛陽後,宋弘官拜大司空;因湖陽公主強買良民為奴而犯顏直諫,反被湖陽公主賞識其才器,願託終身。宋弘婉拒不成,復於金鑾抗辯,劉秀大怒,判以斬刑。鄭巧兒趕往法場諫夫,劉秀始知宋夫人就是當年為自己療饑、治傷之活命恩人,馬上赦免宋弘死罪,使之夫妻團圓。

如此圓滿緊湊、情理兼備的故事,加上眾位老倌施展渾身解數,把戲文主旨與人物感情充分發揮,沒有不好看的道理。全劇以唱為主,做工較少,但沒有絲毫冷場,每一場的氣氛或緊張、或溫馨、或激昂、或幽怨,無不牢牢牽引著觀眾的情緒和注意力,帶動他們與劇中人同悲共喜,腦袋幾乎沒餘暇來分析哪一段唱得好、哪一段演得妙。勉強要說其中令人印象最深刻的,首推飾演湖陽公主的陳嘉鳴。她那得天獨厚的鋼嗓,渾厚嘹亮,音域遼闊,二十年如一日。今天唱來更見收放自如──自矜身分時冷峭砭骨,芳心歷亂時柔情無限,顧影自憐時淒酸滿懷。湖陽公主的諸般情緒變化,盡在她一字一句的唱腔中,剛柔並濟,層次分明,令人歎為觀止。

羅家英以他一貫剛烈威勇、英氣勃發,但不會流於粗暴無文的風格來演繹正義凜然、傲骨崢嶸的宋弘,自是不作他人想。難得他向鄭巧兒表明心跡時,竟流露幾分少年人「愛在心裡口難開」的青澀腼覥,連我也感受到他們兩情相悅的甜蜜溫馨,忍不住會心微笑。鄭巧兒知書達禮、溫柔善良,性格本來就十分討好,汪阿姐演來更覺得心應手。最喜歡她向湖陽公主求情那段戲,鄭巧兒如何愛惜夫郎、委婉賢淑,盡在那一字一淚的剖白中──先說丈夫德才兼備,為國棟樑,應受重用;公主匡扶社稷,德被萬民,虛度青春,理應得配佳偶;然後訴說自己無父無子,死不足惜,願以身代夫受刑。難得編劇沒有選用唱段,而是讓鄭巧兒含悲帶淚的娓娓道來,如今思之,仍覺淒涼萬狀,不忍卒聽。難怪湖陽公主惻然動容,老友也感動得雙淚橫流,又哭掉我半包紙巾。

若非臺上諸位傾情投入的演出,自然無法充分表達劇中人的忠奸、喜惡,然而全劇最吸引我的,始終是編劇賦予人物那些精純、真摯、深刻的感情。我甚至不必猜度宋弘為何深愛妻子至此,雖九死而不悔;鄭巧兒為何這樣愛惜丈夫,寧可犧牲自己,也要成全他濟世安民的志向。湯若士早就說過:「情不知所起,一往而深。生者可以死,死可以生。生而不可與死,死而不可復生者,皆非情之至也。」宋弘與鄭巧兒之間的深情,是貨真價實的生死不渝、富貴不淫、貧賤不移、威武不屈。任何窮根究柢的臆測或解釋,可能都是一種褻瀆。

也許有人不明白,宋弘為甚麼寸步不讓,固執得不可理喻。我不是宋弘,當然不能代答;但如果我是他,我會這樣回答:因為感情和理智是兩碼子事。做人處世,當然要深思熟慮,但感情本來就沒甚麼道理好說。所以劉秀顧慮周全,嘗試提出幾個道理上無懈可擊的方法來解決感情問題,註定要碰得一鼻子灰。

感情上的忠誠,只要出自肺腑,就不是甚麼負擔,而是像呼吸、走路一樣自然的事。宋弘將對妻子的絕對忠誠,與忠君、治國相提並論,甚至不惜以性命來捍衛這份忠誠,意味著他認為忠於愛妻是完整人格不可或缺的一部分,跟讀聖賢書、行仁義道同出一轍──對妻盡忠等於齊家,齊家才能治國;負心另娶就是不仁,迫人再婚就是不義。這正是令劉秀忍無可忍,當眾翻臉,判處宋弘問斬的爆發點。與其批評宋弘不識時務、執迷不悟,不如試著這樣理解:他的無畏無懼、不屈不撓,可能正是人間最純淨、最神聖的感情本質──沒有前因,不顧後果,只有用心,才可守護兩人相悅、相知最純粹、最真實的存在。

在這個是非不分、真假難辨、茫然不知所向的世道,愈來愈多人慨嘆真情難求,卻不知除了物質和互相攀比以外,還可以怎樣衡量感情的深淺,甚至真偽。《糟糠情》的故事彷彿提醒我們,欲求真情,還須回到最純淨、最真誠的本心。上天下地,出死入生,能否在茫茫人海中找到另一顆跟自己契合的真心,卻要看各人的造化了。但戲文告訴我們,只要精誠不滅,抱持希望,奇蹟還是會發生的。

Thursday, 13 August 2015

《穆桂英大破洪州》

去年九月,汪明荃與茅威濤對談時,曾提及正在籌備一次她與羅家英領導的「福陞粵劇團」的紀念演出,預計於今年夏天舉行。儘管我不是汪阿姐的影迷,一直很佩服她推動本港粵劇發展的熱誠與魄力,也希望再睹她在粵劇舞臺上的丰采,所以默默記在心裡。早前終於看到地鐵燈箱廣告,於是馬上買票,略表支持。

首先看的是《穆桂英大破洪州》。據場刊所言,此劇由葉紹德編撰,正是一九八八年「福陞」成立時的首個開山劇目。由於這次一連五天六場的演出是為了慶祝劇團成立二十七周年,於首晚選演此劇,亦饒富象徵意義。

全劇共分五場,表演文武兼備,情節流暢而簡單,是粵劇中少見精鍊、緊湊的作品。話說穆桂英奉詔掛帥抗遼,其夫楊宗保擔任先鋒。楊宗保不堪敵將挑釁,暗中違命出戰,鎩羽而歸,穆桂英遂判之杖責四十、插箭遊營示眾。楊宗保銜恨不已,後得母親柴郡主調停,方與妻子釋嫌,合力大敗遼軍。戲文開始前有一楔子,敷演寇準(阮兆輝飾)聞得契丹南侵,與王爺趙德芳(廖國森飾)密議由誰來掛帥出征,乍看似乎是為了給觀眾一點懸念,同時為穆桂英登壇點將營造萬眾期待的氣勢。然而看將下來,趙德芳始終沒再出現,才省悟編劇加上這個楔子,可能是為了給六柱之一的武生(專演年長男性,須掛鬚)提供表演機會。可惜楔子除了說明戲文的時代背景外,於推動後文情節並無太大幫助,趙德芳的戲份也實在太少,頗有大材小用之嘆。

此劇既以穆桂英命名,所費筆墨自然最多;猶幸用得其所,塑造穆桂英的形象頗見心思,效果亦不俗。從登壇點將的凝重自信,依法治罪的剛正不阿,到拜見舅姑時的恭敬謹慎,開解夫婿時的嬌媚委婉,無不讓人對公私分明、處事得體的穆桂英心生好感。此外,穆桂英的性格與感情層次較為繁複,也可以讓演員盡情發揮。汪阿姐雖沒有從小接受嚴格的戲曲訓練,畢竟也是縱橫影視圈數十年的資深演員,演技之精湛毋庸置疑;要燙貼、傳神地表現穆桂英的各個面貌,自然也難不到她。唯一比較遜色的是,與契丹兵將的武打顯得相當猶豫,誠為美中不足。但從武打動作之繁複與難度來看,表演仍是誠意十足的。

穆桂英的丈夫楊宗保,同樣擔戲甚重,性格亦頗突出。他身為先鋒,點將時居然遲到;面對敵將挑釁又沉不住氣,不惜違令接戰;戰敗後又不甘受罰,甚至諉過於人,可見他律己不嚴,衝動魯莽又自以為是,活脫脫是個給寵壞了的少爺。後來楊延昭以洪州守將身分求見元帥,楊宗保卻故弄玄虛,不讓父親和妻子知道對方是誰,結果作弄兩人不成,反累得自己跑來跑去,還要給父親斥責,正是頑皮小子自討苦吃的典範。羅家英扮演楊宗保,維持一貫悉力以赴、毫無保留的認真態度,連水髮也轉了三次,而且每次的轉法也稍有差異,以表達不同的情緒,令人肅然起敬。此外,他在作弄父親、怨恨妻子責罰等場合,演來居然頗有少不更事、盛氣凌人的感覺,更是難得。

尤聲普掛上三縷黑鬚扮演楊延昭,佔戲不多,但莊重端嚴的氣度、先後兩次策馬奔馳的功架,令人印象深刻。陳嘉鳴的柴郡主只有押運糧餉至洪州,與丈夫會合,以及在軍營中維護媳婦、教訓兒子兩場戲,演來同樣稱職。阮兆輝先飾寇準,後演遼將白天佐,戲份不多,發揮亦有限。至於穆桂英的隨從還鄉(王希頴飾)、思鄉(柳御風飾),楊宗保的馬僮張彪(劍麟飾),以及一眾男女兵將,無不精神抖擻、穿戴整齊,儘管沒有太多表演機會,至少讓登壇點將、軍法處斷和各個武打場面更具氣派,同樣功不可沒。

總括而言,《穆桂英大破洪州》是一齣劇情簡單、表演豐富的劇目,故事內容談不上很深刻,但表演方面文武兼備、莊諧並存,亦算相當可觀,值得一看。

最後,因應劇名「洪州」兩字,忍不住老學究脾氣發作,再說幾句題外話:

此劇既是《楊家將》民間傳奇的延伸,時代背景無疑是北宋初年,宋、遼對峙之際。穆桂英率兵抗遼,戰場理應位於兩國邊境,也就是歷史課本經常提到的「燕雲十六州」一帶(約為今日北京、天津、山西及河北北部等地)。可是「燕雲十六州」並不包括洪州,因為洪州不在北方,而在江南,就是今天江西省會南昌市。據《宋史》卷八十八〈地理志四〉記載,洪州屬江南西路,級別是都督府,乃諸州級別中最高者(級別按地位輕重、城市規模、經濟狀況、戶口多寡等因素劃分),統領江南西路兵馬鈐轄。南宋高宗被金兵窮追時,太后也曾率六宮逃往洪州暫避。由此可知,洪州素來是江南大城,不會是穆桂英大破遼軍之地。那麼,戲文到底在哪裡發生呢?

如果從宋、遼邊境的地理位置與字音推斷,可能是位於河北東路的雄州(今河北雄縣)。《宋史》卷八十六〈地理志二〉記載,雄州屬規模中等的防禦之城。而宋太宗至道元年(公元九九五年)夏四月「乙酉,契丹犯雄州,知州何承矩擊敗之,斬其鐵林大將一人」(《宋史》卷五〈太宗本紀二〉),亦與戲文暗合。

雖云小說家言,不必坐實,但洪州確是宋代江南主要城市之一,不應與邊境要塞混為一談。可惜不知劇名寫成「洪州」有何依據,而且戲文流傳已久,要考據或更正也不太可行了。如今記述於此,聊備一說,以助談資,並俟高明而已。

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

蘇劇《花魁記》

望文生義,蘇劇應是源於蘇州的地方劇種,但我對其表演特色卻一無所知。難得有機會親睹其代表劇目《花魁記》,自是欣然赴會。

據場刊介紹,蘇劇由花鼓灘簧、南詞及崑曲合流而成,其前身為「蘇灘」,又稱「對白南詞」。演出時由五至七人圍坐一桌,扮演不同角色,但不化妝,素衣清唱。直至民國之後,才逐漸出現化妝表演,與清唱並存。可是場刊沒有解釋「灘簧」、「蘇灘」、「南詞」等稱謂,只好上網搜尋。赫然發現《清稗類鈔》〈音樂類〉下有「灘簧」條,記載甚詳:

灘簧者,以彈唱為營業之一種也。集同業者五六人或六七人,分生旦淨丑腳色,惟不加化裝,素衣,圍坐一席,用絃子、琵琶、胡琴、鼓板。所唱亦戲文,惟另編七字句,每本五六齣,歌白並作,間以諧謔,猶京師之樂子,天津之大鼓,揚州、鎮江之六書也。特所唱之詞有不同,所奏之樂有雅俗耳,其以手口營業也則一。婦女多嗜之。江、浙間最多,有蘇灘、滬灘、杭灘、寧波灘之別。杭灘昔有用鑼鼓者,今無之。善琵琶者頗有其人。晚近以來,上海流行蘇灘,以林步青為最有名。林善滑稽,能作新式說白,婦女尤歡迎之。所至之處,座客常滿,其價亦較他人為昂。著名者尚有張筱棣、范少山、周珊山、鄭少賡、金清如等人。

由此可見,「灘簧」就是五至七人圍坐清唱,以絲竹伴奏的小型彈唱表演,「蘇灘」是流行於蘇州的「灘簧」支派,上海、杭州及寧波等江南主要城市也各有其灘。

另外,搜尋資料時又發現「蘇灘」有「前灘」和「後灘」之分。相傳清朝某帝駕崩後,朝廷下令全國禁演戲曲三年。蘇州藝人錢某遂刪去崑劇鑼鼓,把古雅艱澀的曲詞改編為通俗易懂的七字句,以絲竹伴奏清唱,原稱「錢灘」,後來訛作「前灘」。換言之,「前灘」是改編自崑劇的戲文,只是內容較簡鍊,並用清唱形式表演。「後灘」則是詼諧惹笑的劇目,主要取材自本土風物和新聞時事,大概類似今日的相聲、小品趣劇等。

至於「南詞」,最少有兩個意思。一指發源於宋、元之間的「南戲」,現存最早的南戲研究專著,就叫《南詞敘錄》。此外,「南詞」又可指浙江的說唱藝術「平湖調」,曲詞也是以七字句為主。據說浙江寧波、福建南平、漳州、將樂等地也有南詞曲藝,但已式微。若論蘇劇來源之一,則「南詞」似乎應指宋元南戲。

是次上演的蘇劇《花魁記》,故事來自明代話本《醒世恆言》卷三〈賣油郎獨佔花魁〉,清初李玉曾改編為長篇傳奇(崑劇)《佔花魁》,其中〈受吐〉一折最有名,至今仍有搬演。一九五六年由蕭鐸渠改編為蘇劇。全劇共分六場,情節流暢簡鍊;其中〈醉歸〉一折,把賣油小子秦鍾對花魁娘子辛瑤琴純真虔誠的仰慕之情,以及辛瑤琴自傷身世、慶幸終身有託的心事刻劃入微,最具情韻。據悉這是蘇劇的經典折子之一,誠非倖至。可惜這麼浪漫旖旎的民間傳奇,卻被蹩腳的結局破壞了。未知是否當年改編時受到政治局勢影響,重演前又沒有仔細校閱曲詞,辛瑤琴決意從良的重要唱段中,竟然出現「尊嚴」、「青春歲月」等現代詞語,甚至連音樂也突然變得澎湃激昂,一派誓與鴇母王九媽所代表的封建勢力周旋到底的樣板戲格調,真是大煞風景;如今想起,仍覺遺憾不小。

若問演出形式,當然並非復古的圍坐清唱,而是一般有化妝、穿戴、道具和布景的扮演。儘管曲調明顯與崑劇不同,仍貫徹柔靡委婉的風格;只有結局時那一段慷慨壯麗的交響樂式曲風,與全劇格格不入。表演以唱為主,曲詞大致清簡流麗,音樂相當悅耳,音色柔和、節奏平緩但不拖沓,聽來不覺沉悶。表演身段看來不及崑劇那麼講究,但也有一股隨意為之而不踰方圓的瀟灑自然。

蘇劇既是蘇州的本土劇種,原以為是以軟語吳儂的蘇州話演唱,雖說附設字幕,但進場前也曾擔心聽不懂,幸而沒有想像中的困難。事實上,我注意到生、旦演唱和唸白的語音,較接近崑劇所用的中州韻;其餘老旦、貼旦、淨、丑等行當,說的才是蘇州話。猶幸唸白沒有字幕也勉強聽懂了一半,也許是曾經改寫過,讓外地觀眾較易明白吧?聽老友說,主角專用中州音或接近官話的語音,配角則說土語的安排相當普遍,她老家的劇種也是如此。我亦記得崑劇的丑角多說上海話、蘇州話或標準國語等,視乎演出地點或人物身分而定。例如崑劇《滿床笏》裡,龔敬、師氏和蕭氏都說中州音,身有供職的中軍說的是國語,老僕蒼頭和侍婢梅香則說蘇州話。另有一次看崑劇折子戲〈借茶、活捉〉,扮演張文遠的名丑更即興說了幾句粵語,逗得滿場觀眾樂不可支。但我始終不明所以,還望識者賜教。

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《滿床笏》

今年「中國戲曲節」的壓軸節目是「江蘇省蘇州崑劇院及蘇劇團」(下稱「蘇崑」)上演的崑劇《滿床笏》、蘇劇《花魁記》及多齣精選折子戲。我選看了《滿床笏》和《花魁記》,俱是故事較完整的長劇,但也不過兩小時許就演完了。

先說《滿床笏》。

據場刊介紹,《滿床笏》又名《十醋記》,清初范希哲編撰,敷演唐代朔方節度使龔敬中年無子,有意娶妾卻被精明幹練的元配師氏所阻,然而最終也如願以償的故事。可是這些類似《獅吼記》的情節,跟《滿床笏》的劇名極不相襯,難免心裡狐疑。為甚麼呢?「笏」粵音「忽」,指古代官員朝見君主時手持作記事用的弧形條板,用玉、竹、木或象牙製成。所謂「滿床笏」,就是說滿門子婿俱為重臣,所用的笏板放滿一床,象徵子孫賢良、富貴無已。這跟妻子不許丈夫娶妾,可謂風馬牛不相及。可惜手上沒有原著或相關史籍,上網仔細考查後,仍是一頭霧水,只好嘗試整理一下網上看到的資料,以俟高明。

據說《滿床笏》至少有兩個版本,一個收錄於一九二五年出版的《集成曲譜》,只得十二齣;其中五齣的名目,與是次「蘇崑」演出的版本相同。另一個則稱《十醋記》,是李漁閱定的傳奇之一,共三十六齣;其中十齣以「醋」字命名,敷演龔敬懼內的情節,因稱《十醋記》。但清代著名學者焦循《曲考》、《劇說》諸書皆註明《十醋記》乃「合肥龔司寇門客作」,即明末清初「江左三大家」之一龔鼎孳的幕客為了討好其繼室顧湄而寫,因為龔鼎孳與劇中人龔敬「同姓同職」。又有網民聲稱《滿床笏》原名《十醋記》,那十齣以「醋」命名的折子,皆可與《滿床笏》的名目相配云云。

無論如何,「蘇崑」《滿床笏》的內容與《獅吼記》異曲同工,現代觀眾看來別有一番滋味。可惜場刊沒註明改編者是誰,只說此劇由老藝術家倪傳鉞親傳的五個折子連綴而成。其實此本《滿床笏》取材與剪裁的功夫毫不含糊,改編者應居首功。倘若上演的是郭子儀富貴壽考、七子八婿滿門顯宦的情節,對現代觀眾來說,除了祝壽場面熱鬧歡慶外,又有甚麼值得細味之處?

「蘇崑」《滿床笏》人物不多、情節簡單,好看與否端賴演員揣摩和演繹人物內心的水磨功夫。由風華正茂的王芳扮演師氏,實在不作他人想。但見她眼神、表情、舉手投足,就連水袖揮舞的力度與角度,無不流露一股端凝大方、莊重自信,即使吃醋時大發嬌嗔,也不必怒目圓瞪、惡言相向,遑論出動甚麼青藜杖、降魔棒。事實上,王芳的師氏一亮相已讓觀眾信服,掌管一方軍民大政的節度使,其夫人理應如此氣派,方合身分。

戲文演將下去,盡是刻劃師氏心思如何縝密、才幹如何不讓鬚眉、待人處事的手腕何等高明;即使來到最後一折〈後納〉的開端,也充分表現她的沉著、理智,甚至有點冷靜得過了頭。丈夫年屆四十,未有子嗣,終日唉聲嘆氣,她心中再不情願,也深知丈夫的確有權娶妾,自己無從反對,於是轉念一想,臚列准許丈夫娶妾的幾個理由說服自己:「一則相公感激我的好處;二則博得個賢名;三則蕭氏父女亦有感德之恩,沁入肌骨;況此女原是個行孝的,我就教她說話,不怕不依;日後若有異話,她也難逃負義辜恩之罪。」乍聽起來,似乎算無遺策,可是她沒有把心底最真誠、最不會撒謊的情感算進去。事實上,師氏親手把丈夫推向洞房之後的反應,可為明證──但見她緩步後退再轉身,衣袖一揮,頹然坐倒椅上,猶如全身虛脫一般。明明一臉茫然,悲喜難分,可是垂下的雙袖不住顫抖,顯然是心情激盪,無法抑止。最後她強行站起,拖著沉重的步履蹣跚下場。全劇以此作結,自是格調超群,餘韻無窮。

這一小段尾聲,沒有唱詞、沒有唸白,只有少許幽咽淒冷的音樂為襯托,全靠演員以身段表達人物,看來卻勝過萬語千言,澎湃而深沉的情感直搗人心。看到這裡,心中激動自不待言,轉念又想:廣東粵劇能否有一天突破打罵嘻鬧、搞笑媚俗和事無大小務必嘮叨不休的臼窠,嘗試邁向像《滿床笏》這種更高雅、更含蓄、更細膩的表演品味與層次?

當日瞧著師氏下場時落寞、黯然的背影,心中五味雜陳,良久難以釋懷。至今我無法確切地形容自己對這個人物的感受,既有憐憫,又有點戒懼;唯一肯定的是,這個人物絕不可愛。龔敬之所以要納妾,除為子息計外,想必是跟師氏沒甚麼感情可言。但看兩人相處時態度冷淡,龔敬見師氏猶如兒子見嚴母,不是拚命討好陪笑,就是陽奉陰違、冷嘲熱諷,跟陳季常控訴被柳玉娥「喝罵打完呵痛癢,好比我是嬌兒佢是娘」同出一轍。夫妻做到這般模樣,生得出兒子才是奇聞。

不過,師氏性格缺陷再大,也無礙她是個有血有肉有感情的人。且不論她到底對丈夫感情如何,親手促成丈夫立妾、把他推向洞房,真箇是情何以堪,任誰也受不了。然而師氏畢竟並非尋常女子,可能太習慣於自我約束,早已變成條件反射,獨處之際,舉止仍是不逾規矩,不失身分,只有結局時那麼一丁點兒蛛絲馬跡透露真情。正因如此,前文鋪墊師氏精明幹練的形象,至此幾乎一筆勾銷,取而代之的是「誰自願獨立於天地,痛了也讓人看」的無奈與淒涼。也許有人認為,這不過是「不管多強悍,女子仍是感情奴隸」的老調重彈;然而這種認定女子必然屈服於感情,甚至家庭與社會規範的態度,正是古往今來多少女子人生悲劇的根源。

師氏所以惹人同情,甚至比任人擺布的蕭氏更令人難過,就是因為我們深知,不管師氏多麼能幹,她也無法掙脫節度使夫人的身分,另創新生。她畢生的才智與心力,只能用於管理府中大小事務,處理夫妻之間有義無情、似近還遠的關係,藉此維繫自己的身分與地位。這不是故意貶低家庭的重要性,而是婚姻與家庭的重擔,至今仍困擾著多少職業婦女,使她們難以盡展所長。從戲文所見,論智謀、論手腕、論性格,師氏俱比龔敬更適合當節度使。倘若師氏生於今天,應是獨當一面的事業女性,但也未必能夠擺脫婚姻與家庭的束縛。在這個問題上,古今並無太大分別,只是輕重不同而已。

誰說戲曲不能貼近現代人心,不能讓觀眾產生共鳴?一切在乎劇本選材、編寫角度與表演手法而已。由是觀之,崑劇《滿床笏》正是舊戲新演、為傳統劇目賦予新生命的成功典範。

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Monday, 10 August 2015

《武皇陛下》

歷史人物是戲曲常見題材之一,但卻絕不好寫。倘若選擇婦孺皆知的人物,前賢珠玉必多,造成比較,徒增壓力,而且也不容易翻出引人入勝的新意。如以冷僻人物作對象,自然可以不受拘束,恣肆落筆,但要一下子讓觀眾清楚明白來龍去脈,戲文又不至於拖沓冗贅,也極費功夫。更何況,劇本描繪歷史人物時,總不能完全偏離史實,這又是另一道無法打破的枷鎖。

新編粵劇《武皇陛下》上月底於「中國戲曲節」首演,身為武則天鋼粉如我,自是欣然期待,想知道編劇的取材與角度,能否打破前人的窠臼,一新觀眾耳目,可惜看罷略感失望。最主要的原因,正是編劇沒有提供獨特的角度來詮釋武則天,而是將她的傳奇人生擇要呈現,試圖不寓褒貶,讓觀眾自行體會。可惜全劇看來布局鬆散、針線不密,人物眾多但礙於篇幅有限,無處著墨,只粗知他們姓名和身分,就像走馬燈一樣來去匆匆,形象欠分明。至今印象最深的,只得瑰麗豪華卻無關宏旨的登基大典,以及武則天親往獄中探望狄仁傑那場戲。但看演員、樂師陣容龐大,服裝、布景及道具不惜工本,臺前幕後也盡心盡力,戲文卻未能打動我心,亦未免暗自抱歉。

《武皇陛下》共分十一場,從武則天十四歲入宮為唐太宗才人說起,直演到張柬之策動神龍兵變,還政於李氏結束,內容未免蕪雜,亦欠焦點,令我想起內地著名編劇陳亞先先生提出的「冰糖葫蘆式」結構──場次之間的連繫不夠緊密,甚至可以獨立成篇,多一場、少一場也無關痛癢【註一】。首演一連三晚,我選看最後一場,據說劇本已屢經刪削,仍演出超過四小時,首晚更差不多演到午夜才散場。坦白說,對於我這些下班後趕往戲院,連吃飯也顧不上的觀眾來說,戲文如此長篇,精神和體力都難以負荷。無奈的是,有些老觀眾也不滿散場太晚,卻建議提早至七時正開鑼,好讓他們及早乘車回家。可是如今香港工時愈來愈長,這不是把我輩上班族觀眾拒諸門外了嗎?聽在耳裡,心中滿不是味兒,但也再次感受到新舊觀眾要求南轅北轍,難以兼顧的問題。若要折衷,竊以為精簡戲文,方為上策。

現場演出畢竟受制於時間、場地等因素,務須扼要精鍊,要搬演武則天八十多年曲折而漫長的人生,談何容易?因此,我主張取材自歷史人物的戲文──尤其是家喻戶曉的人物──應該捨繁就簡,擷取饒富趣味或情韻的片段,發揮創意敷寫成篇。若能以劇情或人物為依歸,做到長略有致、輕重分明,只於重大關節挖掘其引人入勝或蕩魄搖魂之處,著意描繪,則最理想。這樣既可避免戲文冗贅,亦可兼顧文本與表演的深度,更容易打動人心,亦增加觀眾再三重看、細意回味的意欲。例如武則天探望在囚的狄仁傑那一段,情節簡單,史實亦有所據【註二】,充分表現了武則天超卓的政治手腕、納諫崇賢的氣度,以及狄仁傑盡忠至誠,又深諳武則天脾氣的睿智老臣形象。這場戲獲得觀眾一致好評,公認為全劇最精采的段落,固然得力於尹飛燕和阮兆輝兩位老倌的精湛演技,其實更在於劇本描寫人物較為深刻,兩人既是君臣、亦為知己的交情也能觸動觀眾,誠非僥倖。

不少觀眾讚歎《武皇陛下》精心編排的歌舞場面、華麗堂皇的服裝與布景,但劇本辭藻優美,音韻和諧,用典燙貼而不失簡明,堪稱雅俗共賞,更獲我心。據場刊介紹,此劇由尹飛燕構思故事,周潔萍執筆,喜見周小姐文字功力深厚,若能在劇本結構、布局、人物塑造等方面多加鑽研,作品自應再上層樓。希望周小姐繼續努力,期待下一部新編佳構。

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【註一】詳見陳亞先著,《戲曲編劇淺談》第二章〈戲曲劇本的結構〉,臺北:文津出版社,一九九九年。

【註二】狄仁傑被誣下獄,自承反罪,獲武則天赦免一事,載於《舊唐書》卷八十九、《新唐書》卷一百一十五〈狄仁傑傳〉。武則天親往獄中探望,當是編劇為經營劇力而虛構,然而此構思有根有據,情理兼備,誠佳作也。

Saturday, 8 August 2015

觀罷《糟糠情》有感

抗暴興邦未恃功,錚錚傲骨秉孤忠。
輕生直諫存民命,冒死違天惜落紅。
永憶持燈襄夜繡,難忘破碗鑄恩隆。
誰知鐵面肝腸熱,大義私情一脈同。

亂世相逢似聚萍,慈悲一念死還生。
堪憐白髮殉光武,暗羨紅妝識宋弘。
淑德應同梁婦匹,深情敢與仲卿爭。
窮途未怨翻雲手,可幸賢君報舊盟。

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Incredible and Ridiculous

For months I have uttered nothing about what is going on here in Hong Kong, the city I proudly proclaim as home. This does not mean that I no longer care, but because I am overwhelmed by confusion and incredibility. Nowadays, getting to know the facts and truth on any case of public issues seems the mission impossible. Media reports and online accounts are often biased, distorted and even manipulating. Perhaps my obsession with fact-based, well-informed opinion is somewhat out-of-date and ridiculous by today's standard, but I still can't convince myself to do otherwise. What is the point of making your hands dirty in the chaos, disguised in the name of discussion, say something impulsive, biased or misinformed? If we are committed to solving rather than creating problems, how much can this help?

Indeed, the reality has become extremely puzzling and ridiculous. Just to name a few recent examples: Two government secretaries have stepped down without any evidence of failure or negligence of duty, and their departure took place on the same day as the announcement of their successors. By any standard, this is improper and reckless, indicating poor personnel planning and management, and showing no respect to the outgoing secretaries, the civil service and the general public. I concur that at the minimum, the government owes us an honest and truthful explanation of the unexpected departures. It also warrants a comprehensive review of personnel planning and management practices to ensure that something as impetuous and unprofessional as this would not happen again.

Further reading:

Government announcement on reshuffle

Official statement by Tsang Tak-sing

Official statement by Paul Tang

News report bySouth China Morning Post

Commentary by a former communist

Commentary by Lau Shan-ching

That a female protester was convicted by the court for breast-assaulting a police officer has made the news headlines around the world. What a fabulous way of promoting Hong Kong. Magistrate Michael Chan does have a point in his statement that without "a deterring sentence, the public might mistakenly think it is a trivial matter to assault police officers during protests". Indeed, assault is by all means a serious offence. But whether the physical clash in this case is strong enough to be considered an assault is a separate matter. Seeing female breasts as the assault “weapon” also goes beyond normal reasoning – if it ever exists. I wonder what evidence was presented at the court that brought about this jaw-dropping sentence. Rather than attacking the magistrate for his decision, I'd opt for examining his line of thought and reasoning process.

Further reading:

News report compiled by The Stand News

Commentary on Hong Kong Economic Journal

Statement by the Association for the Advancement of Feminism

The controversy over the appointment of pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong is even more intriguing. According to news reports, the selection panel recommended Prof Johannes Chan as pro-vice-chancellor in charge of academic personnel and resources in June for the University Council's endorsement. But the Council decided in a meeting in late June that the appointment would be deferred until the deputy vice-chancellor is appointed. Quite expectedly, the deferral has caused an outcry of allegations and criticisms from the students, the alumni and the community at large. Although the Council has the authority to endorse, defer or reject any recommendation of selection panels or committees, its decisions are held accountable to the stakeholders of the University. A credible and reasonable explanation for any of its decision is not too much to ask for.

Further reading:

Facts at a glance compiled by Hong Kong Economic Times

Commentary by Jonathan Chan

Commentary by John Chan

News reports by South China Morning Post

Commentaries and news reports compiled by The Stand News

Water contamination by excessive lead allegedly caused by poorly connected pipes at various public housing estates around Hong Kong is perhaps the most outrageous and unimaginable of all. For generations we have taken so much pride in proclaiming Hong Kong as one of the safest haven on earth, and now this is proven to be little more than a self-serving fallacy.

Safety is not just about low crime rates. Safety is more about physical well-being and freedom from fear and threat. This is because water is a key constituent of all living things, humans are no exception. This also explains why all early civilisations sprouted from plains and valleys irrigated by rivers. If the water we drink and use every day is contaminated and harmful to health, our safety is at stake. The government has so far done the right thing by placing health as the top priority by arranging blood tests and healthcare follow-up to affected residents, young children and pregnant mothers in particular. But we must not forget eradicating the problem and holding the right party responsible for the damage to prevent any recurrence. Of course it is very costly, painstaking and time-consuming to conduct a complete survey of water pipes in Hong Kong and to replace the defective ones, this is still the right thing to do. I hope the government, the professional bodies and the general public would agree that this is a dear price we need to pay. After all, nothing should take precedence over human health and welfare.

Further reading:

News report by South China Morning Post

Commentaries and news reports compiled by The Stand News

These recent examples are more than enough to illustrate the pressing problems of Hong Kong. They do not emerge overnight, of course. All of them are results of chronic but neglected symptoms of social changes and eyebrow-raising ills, of which their roots can be traced back several years or more. The collapse of credibility and integrity systems of some corporations and government departments, for example, is the most conspicuous. Under normal circumstances – the high-sounding rhetoric I was taught and made to practise as much as I can – when the internal checks and whistle-blowing systems are effective, many of the problems that we are facing today could have been avoided, or contained in a more manageable scale.

Unfortunately, everything is history now. Our options are limited and fast draining. The priority is to identify the underlying problems, not the symptoms, and come up with effective solutions at different levels and timespan. In fact, Prof K Y Yuen was quite spot-on by saying that "somehow we failed to find a way out", in particular over the past three years, at the press conference announcing his resignation from the HKU Council on 31 July. This is one of the real problems we need to address urgently. We need to work out why this capability is being lost – or already lost – and how we can restore it. Some may ask: There are so many forces and factors at play and where should we start? I'd suggest: Let's begin with re-discovering our conscience, the insistence for integrity, reason and the willingness to reconcile.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

林家聲印象

粵劇名伶林家聲於昨晚病逝,享年八十二歲。沒想到今天小休,遽聞噩耗,又見戲迷與梨園後學紛紛在網上致哀,令人傷感。

雖說林先生年事已高,但他一直精神矍鑠,近年也積極指導和支持粵劇後學,並將自己從藝的心得與經驗結集成書。事實上,我在不同劇團的演出中,就碰上他好幾次。一般粵劇演出至少三小時,做觀眾的也頗費精神和體力,林先生總是看到曲終人散才離去,實在令人欽佩。

我稱不上是林先生的戲迷,也無緣親睹他在舞臺上的丰采,十分可惜。記得一九九三年夏天,林先生假新光戲院舉行告別演出,為期一個月,此後退出舞臺。林先生享譽藝壇數十年,戲迷無算,加上是退休前的告別演出,自是一票難求。我當年還是個學生,沒想到遲疑一會就向隅了,抱憾至今。

此後二十多年來,我倒是有機會看過一些林先生的開山戲寶,包括《雷鳴金鼓戰笳聲》、《無情寶劍有情天》、《三夕恩情廿載仇》、《周瑜》、《煙雨重溫驛館情》(又名《煙波江上西子情》)、《笳聲吹斷漢皇情》、《樓臺會》、《連城璧》、《朱弁回朝》、《花染狀元紅》、《春花笑六郎》、《情俠鬧璇宮》等。這些劇目題材廣泛,既有新編故事,也有取材自歷史典故或民間傳奇者。若論表演特色,這些劇目無不唱做兼重,文武俱全,能滿足不同觀眾的欣賞喜好,亦可反映林先生唱做兼擅,文武全才的優點。因此,新晉演員若要演出林先生的名劇,絕對不能躲懶,務必苦心練習與鑽研,方得小成。

林先生的電影作品之中,教我印象最深是秦劍編劇兼執導,馬師曾、黃曼梨、阮兆輝等合演的《父母心》(一九五五),這也是備受推崇的粵語片傑作之一。林先生扮演馬師曾的長子,也許不及活潑精靈的阮兆輝(飾幼子)搶鏡,但他帶同學到戲院捧父親的場,卻發現原工丑角的父親竟要扮演挨打的老虎,那個尷尬又痛心的表情,至今歷歷在目。印象中林先生在電影中多扮演文質彬彬、飽讀詩書的青年才俊,相信與他本人儒雅溫文的氣質有關。事實上,香港歷來具備書生氣質的演員不算多,並非女扮男裝者更如鳳毛麟角,因此,竊以為至少在這一點上,林先生也堪稱獨步藝壇了。

署理行政長官林鄭月娥在聲明中形容林先生是「粵劇一代宗師」,觀乎他的藝術造詣及創作歷程,以及不遺餘力扶掖新晉、桃李滿門的盛況,這並非溢美之辭。他的唱腔和表演功架,早已卓然成家,藝壇自有公論。身為觀眾,雖未親睹其臺上丰采,然而有機會欣賞經他指導或創作的劇目,亦感與有榮焉。

林先生,辛苦了,願您安息。

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

扶醉閒步(並序)

邇來身心俱疲,寢食皆廢。夜來小酌一尊,瞥見碧空如洗,帶醉閒步園中。但覺清風撲面,暑氣全消;汗出淋漓,酒意亦闌。故速賦一律,權為之記。

澆罷愁腸欲睏難,何妨帶醉盪花間?
連空碧樹驚蛩噪,匝地昏燈惜影殘。
尚憶詩仙邀皎月,應憐棄疾叩青山。
浮生聚散由天定,可笑冥頑未當閒。

Sunday, 2 August 2015

觀王芳演崑劇《滿床笏》有感

計運蘭閨指顧間,知心自古最艱難。
憑誰帳暖賒銀燭,照向寒衾月影殘?

Saturday, 1 August 2015

It Is More Than Okay to be Sad

"This film is dedicated to our kids. Please don't grow up. Ever."

At the end of Disney's latest animation Inside Out, I sat through the scrolling credits to see this.

Apparently Inside Out is a harsh but friendly reminder of the costs and pains of growing up, the inevitable process of life. No one can turn the clock back, not even Benjamin Button. Like it or not, we have to cope with it and live with it.

Like many spectators who have written about the film, I could hardly hold back tears seeing Bing Bong sacrificing himself to help Joy escape from the abyss of abandoned memories. It is sad to see such an heroic but tragic act, which deserves honour and respect. It is even sadder in reality, however, because the eradication of memory is often done involuntarily and unwittingly, leaving no trace for mourning or reminiscence. Bygones are bygones. We don't seem to have the right or power to choose what to remember and what not. Selection is left to the human memory system, which operates independently on its own rules.

Many reviews have elaborated on the key takeaway of the film – "It is okay to be sad." And I'm not going to share my two-cent worth, which is more or less similar to what has been already discussed. I just want to add that Inside Out confirms my long-standing view that life is anything but happy. Sadness is the essence of life, the intrinsic nature of human existence, although it is a hard fact that many of us are reluctant to accept.

Babies announce their presence upon birth with a loud cry, not a laugh. Infants cry when they need food, comfort or consolation. Even when we are overwhelmed with excitement, honour and respect, tears often flow down the cheeks before a big grin takes over. The same thing happens when anger roams in our veins but there is no escape. If we can't curse or hit someone in the face, crying is the only culturally and socially acceptable way of venting anger.

This is why, I believe, the playwright or director makes such a remark in Inside Out – any memory ball touched by Sadness will be tainted blue (the colour of Sadness) and cannot be changed back into its original colour – yellow (Joy), red (Anger), green (Disgust) or purple (Fear). I don't know how many people have noticed this when they watch the film, but certainly it does catch my attention almost immediately – It's just so right to spell it out that Sadness can't be turned back. It may be diluted or forgotten, but it can't be changed.

Happiness, by contrast, is a state of mind that goes against human nature. Making yourself and other people happy requires extra and deliberate efforts. Just like what Riley's memory has shown us, happiness only sets in (or, more accurately, sadness recedes when happiness intervenes) when she receives consolation and support from her family and friends after she loses a good chance to win a hockey tournament. Under these circumstances, sadness is more than an emotional response to a particular situation in life but also a call for help. Only when it is answered properly will happiness arrive, and possibly take over. If the call goes unnoticed or misinterpreted, or the response received is undesirable, sadness may deepen, or invite other emotions such as anger or fear. This means Sadness has in its hands the helm of human life, not Joy, as the plot of Inside Out seemingly assumes. Eventually it proves that Joy can't work on its own, neither can any of the other three emotional buddies. This is a specialty of Sadness but no one else.

So I think the quote cited in the first paragraph of this post is quite misleading. To me, the film is not so much about growing up – although it does touch upon the challenges of facing up to changes in the process – but a gentle reminder of the fact that life is sad by nature. Happiness is often built on the foundation of sadness. This is very important because only by recognising the inevitability of sadness will it become more acceptable and tolerable. After all, there is nothing wrong to be sad.

Note: The still cited above is directly linked from the Gallery section of the official website of Inside Out.