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Established Japanese theatre director Yukio Ninagawa leads senior citizens in acting revolution (with photos)

     Directed by Yukio Ninagawa, a leading figure in Japanese contemporary theatre, and performed by Saitama Gold Theater, "Ravens, We Shall Load Bullets" will be staged in Hong Kong next week. Featuring more than 30 actors aged over 75 on average, the production offers a breathtaking revolution in acting norms as the story of a gang of elderly armed rebels taking over a court unfolds.

     Saitama Gold Theater comprises a remarkable group of elderly performers. Without training before joining the group, they have successfully learnt to draw on decades of experience to develop a unique and naturalistic acting style under the guidance of Ninagawa.

     "Ravens, We Shall Load Bullets" is a thought-provoking work written by playwright Kunio Shimizu in the 1970s. In the story, the solemn trial of two young protesters, who are in court for throwing explosives, is suddenly disrupted when a gang of elderly women breaks into the courtroom with broomsticks and bombs. Disregarding rules and standard behaviour, the grannies turn defendants into plaintiffs and prosecutors into hostages, and they even have to fight the renewed flames of desire.

     True battlers in their roles and in reality, the elderly performers constantly test their own limits and those of theatrical convention, breathing life experience into characters to create a profound impact. The programme is a radical reworking of the possibilities of both stage and old age.

     In 2006, Yukio Ninagawa held an open audition to recruit untrained actors aged over 55 for a one-year community project. The response was surprising and overwhelming. Ninagawa ended up spending two weeks selecting 48 senior citizens from more than 1,000 candidates to form Saitama Gold Theater. Since then, the group has performed regularly and developed a wide-ranging repertoire. It currently has 39 members with an average age of 75. The oldest one is 88 years of age.

     "Ravens, We Shall Load Bullets" is one of the programmes of the New Vision Arts Festival (NVAF) organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. It will be staged on November 14 and 15 at 8pm as well as on November 16 at 3pm at the Kwai Tsing Theatre Auditorium. The programme is presented in Japanese with Chinese and English surtitles. It contains strong language and sexual scenes.

     Tickets priced at $480, $380, $280 and $180 (for performances at 8pm) and $440, $340, $240 and $140 (for the performance at 3pm) are now available at URBTIX. Half-price tickets are available for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and their minders, and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Other booking discounts of up to 20 per cent are available for full-price tickets of NVAF performing arts programmes.

     A sharing session entitled "Adding a Dramatic Twist to Later Life" will be held on November 15 at 3pm at the Kwai Tsing Theatre Lecture Room. Members of Saitama Gold Theater will tell the audience about the staging of "Ravens, We Shall Load Bullets", their training, and how they instil their personal stories into the characters they play on stage. The sharing session will be conducted in Japanese with Cantonese interpretation.

     A pre-performance appreciation talk to be conducted in Cantonese will also be held at 7pm on the same day at the same place. Actor Anson Lam, who has studied in Japan, will provide tips on how to appreciate Japanese theatre. He will also give an overview of how Ninagawa has trained a group of elderly people to become stage performers. Admission is free for both the sharing session and the appreciation talk. Limited seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

     The NVAF is running from October 16 to November 16, showcasing an array of innovative and outstanding performances that cross cultural and disciplinary borders. Programme brochures are available at URBTIX outlets or at the festival website

     For programme enquiries, please call 2370 1044. Internet bookings can be made at Telephone credit card bookings can be made on 2111 5999.

Ends/Friday, November 7, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:46


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