Shakespeare in the Port Returns to HK


By: Joyce Wong


After attracting over 2,000 people last year to a positive debut, Shakespeare in the Port is back again this April for another festival of outdoor theatre. This year, the main stage shows are promised to be bigger and better with two of the Bard’s famous comedies, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to balance a hefty tragedy King Lear. Not only is the selection increased, this year’s productions are bilingual and will feature different theatre styles. The Tempest directed by Aska Leung is a physical theatre production; Midsummer is adapted for kids; and King Lear directed by Ben Margalith is an adapted English production with a Queen at the heart of its tragedy. 


Directing and producing outdoor theatre is no easy task and Shakespeare in the Port is the first ever festival of its kind in Hong Kong. Things like “ambient sounds, lack of acoustics, and adverse weather” are all interferences the cast has to contend with to put on a show. Last year, a main issue from audience feedback was sound issues, which is why this year Artistic Director, Meaghan McGurgan, has looked to install a better audio system and a bigger set design with a shell to block out traffic noise. The upgraded infrastructure increased this year’s production cost and the SITP has turned to crowdfunding via Fringebacker for support. 


“Crowdfunding is a great alternative funding plan for small theatre companies like Shakespeare in the Port. 8 out of 10 people who apply for Arts Development Council, don’t receive it. I really see crowdfunding as the future for funding in the arts- especially in a city, like HK where grants are so competitive. It’s nice to have platforms where we can raise money through small contributions rather than rely on corporate donations,” says Meaghan. 



Currently, with a little under a month left for crowdfunding, SITP has yet to reach half of their goal of raising HKD$25,000. “If the crowdfunding project fails, then we will have to rely on ticket sales to pay for our production costs. All the more reason to support early, you get a much cheaper ticket and insure that the people creating this festival can focus on what matters, creating an amazing experience,” says Ben. Supporting the production allows the artists to focus on their art and devote their energy towards an affordable festival for all—the funds would go towards making outdoor Shakespeare free for all children under 12.


Besides crowdfunding, SITP also relies on the strength of the local community in that its casts 100% locally. Meaghan believes “the Hong Kong talent pool is incredibly undervalued. It's completely possible to cast a festival from the local talent here without sacrificing quality. Supporting local artists means supporting your local economy—I always try my best as an artist and an audience member to support companies that hire locally and pay artists for their time. You wouldn't expect a lawyer to work for free, why expect an artist to do this?” 


“Instead of spending loads of money to hire international tours, why not use that money to support ten, or even hundreds of local art groups? There are many local artists who can’t make a living on arts, I’m not saying art is about money, but it shouldn’t be free either,” says Boaz Lo, the Production Coordinator of SITP. 



Local talent would include both the English and Cantonese-speaking community in Hong Kong, which is why this year the productions are bilingual to not only accommodate different performers but also audience members. “Communication is always challenging in theatre,” Meaghan explains, “especially when you’re dealing with people from different countries, but that’s what I love about Hong Kong. We’re a melting pot! We can blend our ideas and experience new things together. Tweeting and Facebooking in Chinese has definitely been a first for me. I’m very grateful for my translators this year. They’re working overtime!”


With three more months of extended preparation and dedicated passion compared to last year’s production, this year’s festival looks to be an engaging and diverse family affair—SITP will be equipped with education booths with workshops and activities. Another side note is that an extra show has been added to the mainstage lineup. Shakespeare in the Port added their touring production Sorry, Shakespeare!  by popular demand! The show recently returned from appearances in Malaysia. Community seems more than ever the essence of this year’s Shakespeare in the Port.  


Shakespeare in the Port is playing from April 16-May 3. For more information, click here. You can donate to their crowdfunding campaign, by clicking this link. You have only 16 days left to support this unique theatre experience in Hong Kong.


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