Theatre Farmers: helping Macao theatres gain more exposure outside

10 2019 | Issue 35
Text/Lai Chou In and Salie Lei

What does nine plus two equal to? The answer is not simply eleven. When nine cities from the Pearl River Delta merge with Hong Kong and Macao, a grander market and more business opportunities are created.


The recent development of the Greater Bay Area, which promotes higher integration of nine cities of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macao, has been receiving increasing attention. From trade and commerce, finance, tourism to technology, the Greater Bay Area focuses on strengthening the communication and collaboration between the nine cities from Guangdong province and the two SARs (Special Administrative Regions). And of course, the cultural and creative industry is also part of the integration and collaboration initiative. In this issue’s Feature, we have invited representatives from three Macao enterprises in the cultural and creative industry, Todot Design, Theatre Farmers and Macao Mango International Media Limited, to share their stories on integrating into the Greater Bay Area as well as how they can utilise their own advantages in a bigger market and tell Macao’s stories.

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Theatre Farmers: helping Macao theatres gain more exposure outside


Dragon, an only child from his family, has been a very creative kid. One day he had an imaginative dream, in which he entered a fantasy realm. This magical dream also enabled a local theatre production team to enter a grander market this summer. The story forms the backbone of Theatre Farmers’ musical production Dragonland. The musical team had finished performing six shows in Shenzhen and Guangzhou in July, receiving high praises and commercial success. “The Greater Bay Area is a good opportunity,” said Jacky Li, Executive Director of Theatre Farmers.


A quality theatre production


Besides Theatre Farmers, ONZ Production & Entertainment from Malaysia was also involved in the making of Dragonland. The production got together professional talents from both Macao and Malaysia, involving over 30 theatre talents. After debuting in Macao last year, Dragonland was invited to participate in the 3rd International Family Theatre Festival in Guangzhou and the 2019 Children’s Theatre Festival in Shenzhen. The production was even showcased as the opening play of the 2019 Children’s Theatre Festival. “Dragonland is probably the first Macao theatre play for families to be shown in Shenzhen. It is a refreshing experience for the local audience in Shenzhen,” Li said. In recent years, the central government of China has launched a series of policies to help drive the art industry forward, one of which focuses on facilitating collaboration and communication with the art industry in Hong Kong and Macao. This is the reason why Li’s team was able to get the opportunity to tour in two cities in the Greater Bay Area. Through the story of Dragon, Dragonland examines the pressure both the parents and children suffer under the current education system. The play is suited for the family audience as it helps to reflect how to help kids unleash their potential while respecting them.


“The audience in the mainland gave us great feedback. They think our musical production is very different from those they have watched before in terms of the content and performance techniques,” Li said. “Our musical is educational and fun. Some mainland viewers told us that our show is very high quality.” During the tour in mainland, there would always be a bunch of kids and parents waiting outside to take pictures with the cast and talk to them. It is apparent that the audience in mainland really appreciated their performance.


Bringing more possibilities


Founded in 2000, Theatre Farmers has been dedicating to cultivating local theatre talents. In recent years, Theatre Farmers started to actively explore collaboration among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. In 2016, it signed cooperation agreement with Guangdong Performing Arts Company and Hong Kong Chung Ying Theatre Company and started the Exchange Initiative for Young Talents from Guangdong/HK/Macao. They aimed to facilitate communication and collaboration between the three regions through co-productions and tours. Under this partnership, Theatre Farmers’ original Cantonese play Confucius: 63 Revisited and Utopia One had been showcased in mainland cities like Guangzhou in 2018 and 2017 respectively.


“After all, Macao has a small population and therefore there are even fewer people in the city who will go to the theatre. But making a theatre play requires lots of human resources and investment. If the play we come up with will only be shown for one or two times, the investment wouldn’t be worth it,” Li pointed out. “The development of the Greater Bay Area has provided us with more opportunities to bring out shows from Macao’s theatres to mainland China, which is a grander market. When there are more people watching our show, there are more possibilities.” In Li’s opinion, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao share a similar culture and enjoy a high degree of intercity connectivity thanks to the convenient transportation, making the Greater Bay Area an ideal place for Macao’s theatre companies to tour around.


There are more solutions than problems


Li described the first tour experience in mainland China as “hot”. “The theatres in mainland China are a bit different from the ones in Hong Kong and Macao in terms of the management and technical details. I think generally the theatres in the mainland wouldn’t turn on the air conditioner when there is no audience. So you can pretty much imagine how hot it was when we first rehearsed in a mainland theatre,” Li said. However, after that Li had learned to communicate with the theatre beforehand. “Even though there might be some differences in terms of how we operate, many problems can be solved if given the time to have a better understanding, communication and coordination,” he said.


In simpler words, there are more solutions than problems. “After all, you are performing somewhere else. You have to adjust to the local culture and customs,” Li said. “You need to jump out of your comfort zone to achieve better collaboration.” Li also mentioned that when touring in mainland China or other places, the theatre company has to consider the cost and the performers’ schedule, etc. When the resource is limited, the production team should keep the production simple to make it easier to tour in different places.


Theatre plays from Hong Kong and Macao still have advantages


The theatre market has been enjoying rapid growth in recent years. To date, a number of world-class shows have already toured in mainland China. Some companies and theatres are also inviting theatre masters to teach in mainland China to facilitate further development. “The theatres in mainland China are growing very fast. But I still believe the theatres in Hong Kong and Macao do have their own advantages,” Li said. “For instance, our production team has better scriptwriting ability. In addition, we also have better stage management and more diverse plays.” The success of Dragonland will no doubt boost confidence for professional talents from the Macao theatre industry that look forward to having an adventure in a grander market.


Theatre Farmers

Founded in 2000, Theatre Farmers is operated by several professional talents from the theatre sector who have a passion for performing arts. Theatre Farmers is dedicated to cultivating talents for Macao’s theatre industry and enhancing general art education for the public. The group has started a series of events such as Theatresports, School Tour and Black Box Theatre, etc. In 2016, Theatre Farmers signed cooperation agreement with Guangdong Performing Arts Company and Hong Kong Chung Ying Theatre Company and started the Exchange Initiative for Young Talents from Guangdong/HK/Macao.