Saturday, 28 November 2015

夜歸即景

數點疏星半滅明,寒光不讓月晶瑩。
陰霾掃盡深凝碧,照取梨魂傲似冰。

Monday, 16 November 2015

粵劇新秀演出系列之《平貴別窯》

著名史學家嚴耕望先生在〈治史經驗談〉提到:「後人評議史事,對於古代史事所發揮的意見,固然可以存而不論,但若作史料的記述,就須絕對避免自己時代的影響。」求真、求實的史籍尚且如此,反映現實、抒發情感的劇本何嘗不然?因此年深月久、時移勢易,後人再看傳統劇目時,難免感嘆內容犯駁不通、思想落伍脫節。儘管我經常告誡自己要像讀史一樣,充分理解原著的時代背景和社會文化,不能盡以現代觀念強加於古人,但也有個限度。《平貴別窯》就是我至今難以理解的傳統劇目之一。

丞相幼女王寶釧下嫁窮漢薛平貴,苦守寒窯十八年的故事流傳已久,各個劇種歷演不衰,情節也大同小異。京劇喚作《紅鬃烈馬》(取自薛平貴降伏紅鬃烈馬的情節),共有十餘折子,〈平貴別窯〉是其中一折;是次粵劇演出則用作劇名。十八年前看過此劇,當時則稱《王寶釧》,其中王寶釧出入窯門的優美身段,至今記憶猶新。

不過,此劇有兩個要緊情節,一直令我無法釋懷,也不太明白為甚麼要寫成這樣。其一,王寶釧之母自稱思念愛女,卻不通絲毫音問,亦無任何周濟,待十八年後才去探望她。若說王母怯於丈夫威權,不敢擅自探望女兒,還勉強說得過去;但堂堂相國夫人,難道就不能暗中使人周濟女兒?何必要她如此吃苦?大女婿蘇龍早知道王寶釧的境況,為何一直袖手旁觀,到某一天才突然熱心起來,帶丈母娘去探望小姨?難道王丞相與女兒擊掌決裂,又千方百計要置女婿於死地,還嫌不夠狠毒?為甚麼非要王寶釧娘家沒個好人才甘心?莫非這就是王寶釧死活不肯接受娘家一分一毫的真正原因嗎?

其二,薛平貴流落西涼,另娶代戰公主,繼位為王,無意中接到血書才還鄉認妻,重逢之際又故意輕薄,以作試探。歷來民間傳奇之中,男主角因另娶而發跡的情節並不新鮮,如《白兔記》、《楊家將》的楊四郎莫不如此。不過,薛平貴這邊廂揮淚別妻、望斷雲雁,一副情深義重的模樣;那邊廂卻故作試探,安的是甚麼心?十八年來風侵雪掠,王寶釧朱顏已老,驀地相逢,薛平貴沒認出來並不稀奇;稀奇的是明知對方就是髮妻,眼見她衣衫襤褸、生活清苦,不敘半句寒溫,卻要試探她有沒有對自己不忠,敢問這是哪門子的丈夫?若是碰上二十年不見的泛泛之交,也不至於此吧?

想來想去,故事編到這個份上,無非為了營造王寶釧堅毅不屈、刻苦安貧的賢慧形象,就像《白兔記》的李三娘一般。既要讓她吃盡苦頭,就務必人人捅上一刀,顧不得情節是否合理了。一般情況下,這些傳統劇目的欣賞重點在於唱、做的表演技巧,不是戲文內容。但要演到聲情並茂,讓觀眾沉醉於表演之中,不去計較犯駁的劇情、前後矛盾的人物,仍是高難度的絕活兒。資深演員尚且未必人人做到,何況功力未純的新晉?因此,我無意細論演員的表現,只想說他們的不懈努力與認真態度是有目共睹的,也值得嘉許,畢竟古本排場戲不易掌握,唱、唸中州音官話的難度又增三分,能演到今天這個程度,實在不容易。但平心而論,表演水平與理想仍有不少差距,尚待改進。其中最要緊的是,希望演員細讀劇本,別對其中的疏漏視若無睹,應設法在表演上加以補救,盡量減輕觀眾的不良印象。同時亦有助理清頭緒,減少隔閡,演來更覺得心應手。畢竟以演包戲,與時並進,是專業演員應有之義。

至於修訂劇本,以呼應時代、補闕拾遺的治本之道,我卻不敢奢求了。

附錄:《平貴別窯》演出劇照

Sunday, 15 November 2015

粵劇新秀演出系列之《朱弁回朝》

千百年來,小說、戲文都是普羅百姓的主要娛樂,說書人和戲班走遍大城小鎮及荒村野店,可謂無遠弗屆,影響力比正規教育深遠得多。古代教育並不普及,歷史掌故和傳奇人物,無不端賴說書人和優伶在民間口耳相傳。若無小說、戲文,項羽、曹操、諸葛亮、唐明皇、岳飛等歷史人物,能否如此家喻戶曉,也是疑問呢。

粵劇《朱弁回朝》的主角朱弁,或可算是其中之一。

朱弁真有其人,生於兩宋之間,《宋史》有傳。他的知名度或有不及包拯、蘇東坡、岳飛等,但生平也相當曲折,姪孫更是名震中外的理學集大成者──朱熹。朱弁最為人稱道的事蹟,就是他在宋室南渡之初自薦出使金國,被拘禁十七年。期間金人屢次迫他毀節投降,朱弁誓死不屈,金人亦無可奈何。這段媲美西漢蘇武牧羊的經歷,正是戲文的主要內容。

除粵劇外,福建莆仙戲也敷演這個故事,而且同樣加插了朱弁與兀朮養女飛鳳公主的一段情緣。至於這些情節是否另有所本,大概無從稽考了。不過,是次粵劇演出的劇情簡介說女主角名喚「飛鳳」,明顯與另一人物金龍太子相對,演員表卻寫成「雪花」,令人莫名其妙。恕我嘮叨,印發場刊,本來就是幫助觀眾瞭解劇情,讓他們對整體演出留下良好印象,作用十分重要;詞不達意、審稿不精的毛病兒,實在應該痛下決心糾正了。

多年前已看過一遍《朱弁回朝》,印象頗深;其中朱弁與飛鳳公主有緣無分的感情,令人唏噓不已。如今重看,卻另有一番滋味在心頭。

小時候讀《世說新語》,曾擊節讚賞王導「當共戮力王室,克復神州,何至作楚囚相對」的豪情壯志,卻不懂周顗「風景不殊,正自有山河之異」的嘆喟,其實多麼沉痛。撫今追昔,未必就是頹唐。畢竟人非草木,況且劫後餘生,抒發一下肺腑之情,何必動輒以大義相責?須知道,意志再堅定的人,也是七情六欲兼備的凡夫俗子,在困境中總有軟弱無力的時候。經過反覆思量、掙扎之後的擇善固執,更為可貴。過度壓抑或排斥情感,甚至一味強調百折不撓、奮發向上的所謂「正能量」,何嘗不是另一種扭曲人性的矯情?

以此觀之,《朱弁回朝》的主人公朱弁,不啻是個有血有肉的真漢子。他秉持一片孤忠,隻身犯難,膽識令人欽佩。斷然拒絕飛鳳公主周濟,雖云迂腐,畢竟也是為了堅守自己深信不疑的原則。明知遭人暗算而甘心就戮,我等不痛不癢的塘邊鶴固然可以嘲諷他愚不可及;但站在他的立場看,仇家取信於昏君而誣陷得逞,違命反抗等於欺君叛國,推翻自己安身立命的原則與信念,無論如何不能接受。朱弁剛直端嚴,雖云自負才學,卻沒有黃老邪的狂放不羈,超越不了其時其人思想上的局限,實在無可厚非。八百多年後的今天,要把這些複雜深邃的觀念和情感揣摩透徹,繼而演繹出來,絕非輕易;落在新晉演員身上,自然更添壓力。喜見阮德鏘悉力以赴,演來嚴謹投入,表情豐富細緻,使人幾乎忘掉他那魁梧的身材,本來與人物形象頗不相符。但有些細微之處,略嫌揣摩不夠準確,例如朱弁哭悼徽宗與欽宗的失落、怨憤,理應與訣別飛鳳公主的無奈、不捨有所區別。相信日後細讀劇本,再三思考,自有更深體會。

梁非同的飛鳳公主,扮相漂亮,身手了得,舞槍酣戰一段,虎虎生威,博得滿堂掌聲雷動。然而演技尚嫌稚嫩,理解和表達人物的能力仍待加強。至於高文謙的金龍太子、鍾一鳴的忠僕朱祥、芳映雪的侍女宛兒、文軒的義士陳虎、劍麟的兀朮等,戲份不算多,但也認真演出,相當稱職。

平心而論,《朱弁回朝》故事構思不錯,〈哭主〉、〈送別〉、〈斷節〉等折亦具戲味,可惜劇本還有未盡善處,使觀感大打折扣。例如朱弁與飛鳳公主冰釋前嫌,一時忘形說要助她滅金復遼。茲事體大,以朱弁的才智與見識,沒理由不知道自己犯下了極嚴重的錯誤。萬一消息洩漏,便是私通敵國,罪不容誅。自己被扣敵營多年,可謂泥菩薩過江,仍以此當作勸慰飛鳳的話柄,實在魯莽之極。又如朱弁與飛鳳惺惺相惜,互生情愫,兩人卻一直不肯面對現實,到底是為了甚麼?當年張騫與蘇武被困匈奴,尚能娶妻生子;朱弁與飛鳳同仇敵愾,更應同心合力。即使為怕引起兀朮猜忌而不談婚嫁,盟訂三生又何妨?何況當時沒有任何外來阻撓,飛鳳私訪朱弁之後,亦無引起非議。結義金蘭之舉,實在頗有「搵戲來做」之嫌,也削弱了兩人訣別時的感人程度。若以小人之心度君子之腹,我甚至可以懷疑朱弁拒愛,其實是為了博得一己清譽,或者嫌棄飛鳳出身胡虜。這些破綻,既無益於人物形象,亦妨礙了演員自圓其說,十分可惜。但願他日可以彌補,使戲文更趨完善。

附錄:《朱弁回朝》演出劇照

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Intern

Starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, The Intern is said to be the kind of mood-setting light comedy that makes people's day. Unfortunately it doesn't work that well for me, or as much as I want it to, probably because I no longer believe in the existence of miracles in daily life.

Nancy Meyers' screenplay is well researched and tactfully written, sprinkled with real-life delicacies and trivialities that help pull up a grin on the spectator's face for resonance with personal experience. Yet precisely this familiarity attributes to my resistance of the plot, which, quite understandably, was meant to keep hope and trust alight. Pardon my scepticism and negative thinking though, it just all seems too good to be true.

One of the original The Intern posters proclaims, 'Experience never gets old.' Certainly there is a grain of truth in it, but from what I saw from the film and have come across in life so far, it is not so much about experience but experience-converted wisdom. Wisdom is often generated from experience but possession of experience does not necessarily guarantee anything meaningful or valuable in return. Very often it ends up with a chest of fragmented memories that suffocates the open mind like an hourglass blocked by gems. Just as Bernard G Shaw famously puts it in Maxims for Revolutionists, 'If we could learn from mere experience, the stones of London would be wiser than its wisest men.' So, the key question is, how can experience be transformed into wisdom?

De Niro's Ben in The Intern offers a great example for reference, although it is more a showcase of the essential or ideal attributes than anything else. Working at the same company for 40 years and knowing the business of an obsolete industry inside out does not prevent him from embracing the brave new world with open arms and heart. Like many of his age, he is not familiar with the electronic gadgets and non-personal forms of communication, such as making a short video of himself talking and uploading it to the internet. At least he is willing to ask his grandson for instructions and capable of putting it into practice on his own. Notwithstanding his strong beliefs and judgements, Ben never complains. He knows exactly when to speak up and when not, so that he won't sound like a grumpy old man who feels sick of whatever comes into the way. Most importantly, his sharp discernment does not deprive him of consideration, patience and tolerance. He is willing to listen and readily accepts whatever may seem odd and different. In fact, Ben appears so discreet and modest that his self-centred young colleagues soon find him easy to get along with, always ready to help and extremely resourceful. From the dress code to how to mend a sour relationship, Ben never runs out of plausible advice and viable solutions, always available at the right time but without a trace of arrogance and intimidation.

Edward Lam's review published in Ming Pao Weekly on 17 October laments that De Niro's character is a tribute to common sense, which is often said to be dead. Perhaps I was born too late to witness an era in which knowing the limits and what to do and what not is a common indicator of adulthood. As far as I have seen, those who are able to do so are harder to find than a needle in the haystack. To me, The Intern is more a showcase of positive ageing than mourning for the long lost good. For someone of age and experience, opening up the heart and mind is difficult enough to be disheartening, even more so to opening up without compromising the essence of your true self. While Ben sets a great example for the old and young, his flawless standards are miraculously high to be achievable in this broken world.