Q&A with Andy Ng

| Journal


andy

Andy Ng, a Hong Kong citizen, graduated from Theatre Training & Research Practice (TTRP; ITI’s former name) in 2003, as a member of the pioneer cohort.

He has created works such as Whisper of Love presented by Unlock Dancing Plaza in Hong Kong and Ending the World commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival 2006. In the latter, Andy directed and performed alongside ITI graduates Melissa Leung and Walter Leung.

In 2009, he performed in the inaugural The Spirits Play presented by TETC – a theatre collective established by ITI alumni. The Spirits Play went on to play at the 12th Bharat Rang Mahotsav – a major theatre festival in India – after opening in Singapore.

He was in the ensemble cast of Tang Shu-wing’s Titus Andronicus 2.0, presented at Esplanade’s Huayi Festival 2011, which then toured through Taipei, Beijing and Europe, prior to being invited to the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival at the Globe Theatre in London.

Today, Andy lectures on movement at the Drama School, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, and has undertaken an action-research project on Taiji and acting.

Most recently, in January 2015, Andy stars in director Adrien Leung’s cinematic theatre production, Landscape of Ozu, inspired by the late Japanese film-maker Yasujiro Ozu, playing in Hong Kong.

 

Q: When you graduated back in 2003, what were your thoughts and plans then?

Right after my graduation, I felt like a brand new person when I returned to Hong Kong. The three years’ experience [at ITI] had taught me not just acting techniques, but also the passion passed on from each of my teachers. Before I went back to Hong Kong, I went to Kuo Pao Kun’s grave and looked at his picture and said something like, “Thank you so much, the programme drew many masters and gave me more than I could ever imagine”.

I think it was good to continue at least in my own country and community, so I said I would bring the ideas back to Hong Kong – to let Hong Kong people know about the programme. I wanted to sow the seeds of ITI back in Hong Kong.

Before I went back to Hong Kong, I went to Kuo Pao Kun’s grave and looked at his picture and said something like, “Thank you so much, the programme drew many masters and gave me more than I could ever imagine”.

Q: What was your most memorable experience of ITI/TTRP? 

I was already 41 years old when I joined TTRP. That’s very old to be learning – it’s just like a man who has gone through all this history and suddenly there’s three years to learn something new. But it gave me the time to reflect on what I have done, my ideas of life….

Before coming here, I was already working in theatre, but I had approached it with concepts and ideas. My training here taught me that I needed to approach theatre with life itself. I had to integrate my life experience with that of others around me, find that common ground – to make good theatre. This changed view was critical to me – training here is not just about the skills but how one looks at life itself.

Q: What have you taken away from ITI/TTRP training that has made an impact on your career?

Before I joined TTRP, I had just finished studying my MA in East and West theatre studies. It was a theory-based training, but I discovered that Western theatrical culture drew a lot of inspiration from Asian culture. Yet even as a Chinese person myself, I didn’t know what was Asian or Chinese.

I realised that the programme at TTRP was helpful in that sense – drawing us back to Asian traditional theatre forms, as the root of inspiration. I really wanted to join the school to get first-hand experience. I’m glad I have not been disappointed.

I actually realised something through my own practice. Due to my age, I could not train like my young classmates, many in their 20s. Even with certain basic training, it was quite tough on my body. So I looked to doing my own research beyond learning the form and physical training, to find the essence instead. I could use that essence when I did Bharatanatyam, the Indian temple dance. In Hong Kong, I may not be able to use the form in my plays, as its not familiar to the audience, but the essence of that dance – that could be employed. It was the same with Noh training as well.

My experience here has been very useful in that I could start my own training system when I returned to Hong Kong. Drawing from the experience of my age, I began to think about how I would deal with the change of my physicality and find a system that I can still use even at 60 or 70.

I work as a freelance actor now, in various forms of work like purely movement or very realistic systems like Stanislavski’s approach.

Q: How have you tapped on the ITI/TTRP alumni network for collaborative work?

In 2009, some of my cohort, and other years’ graduates wanted to do something so that Singapore can understand the value of the programme we went through.

We came back to Singapore to spend a month to work on Kuo Pao Kun’s work, The Spirits Play, and then performed it here and subsequently in India. We were happy doing it. It was a physical-driven piece; we used action to make dialogues and used different languages: Spanish, Malayalam, Cantonese, English, Hokkien, Japanese and Mandarin.

We were like brothers and sisters speaking different languages. We found no differences because we shared a common spirit and the same concern about people, emotion and expression. We were using different kinds of physical movements or gestures, but we understood it well to respond to one another. It was the first time that I truly enjoyed working with a group of people that didn’t talk too much about the project but just went ahead to do something! It was a great experience in my career, actually.

Q: How do you think ITI’s training continues to be relevant to theatre students / practitioners now? 

I think it’s still very important to theatre practitioners. The programme poses the question to everyone: why art? Different forms of theatre or the different ideas of the director basically ask the same question: why do I use theatre as my form of expression?

People hold different ideas and develop different systems of acting, training and expression. Different cultures appear divergent, but we can grasp these differences and work on them – theatre is that safe space to do that.

Art is about life, the interaction between different people, ideas, cultures and TTRP/ITI is a very good meeting place to provoke questions and find ways to deal with this question. I found myself more humble from my years here because I learnt and saw the differences in front of me. For people, regardless of their colour, origins, wealth, status, we’re all the same. I don’t see any other programme or school that addresses so emphatically the conflicts of culture. The programme itself is a conflict; teachers taught contrasting things. For example, one teacher asked me to learn how to relax, and another teacher may require me to hold tension in some body parts. I needed to find my own way and this is the true training of it.

People hold different ideas and develop different systems of acting, training and expression. Different cultures appear divergent, but we can grasp these differences and work on them – theatre is that safe space to do that.

Q: What would you say to those who are at ITI now, or others who are thinking about joining?

Keep doing your own research in life. Don’t stop when something interesting appears, have courage to step inside and learn more. From there, one finds new directions – as I have from my time here.