Secret Theatre

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Nov 5-Dec 13
 

If you’ve ever been (or still are) one of those hyperactive kids who can’t sit still in a theatre, then this production is exactly what you need. Secret Theatre, one the most critically-acclaimed and ground-breaking theatre companies around today, has finally come to Hong Kong to smash preconceptions surrounding stage performances. Immersive theatre has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in London and New York. For those unfamiliar with the term, immersive theatre is a style of production in which the audience actively plays a role. Instead of passively watching from their seats, they are put in the performance space itself where they can explore the set and follow actors around as they please. Now, for the first time, director and producer Richard Crawford and Daniel Burke have brought one of their intriguingly untitled productions to awe local audiences.

Crawford and Burke first met 13 years ago at Newcastle University in the UK. Very much into drama from a young age, Crawford has always viewed theatre as his life. After university, he crossed the Atlantic and moved to New York, eventually founding Secret Theatre. Burke, who studied film production, went in the other direction and moved to Hong Kong in 2008, and instantly fell in love with the city. However, having previously lived in London, it was quickly apparent to him that the metropolis was, by comparison, culturally starved, especially in the areas of music and theatre. “It seemed obvious to me that they were screaming out for something different and always open for something new,” he recalls. And so, the duo has spent years plotting to bring Secret Theatre to the city. “Hong Kong is such a fantastic place for immersive theatre because of its diversity,” says Burke. “For a city of its geographical size, you can live in many different ways.” In March, Burke invited Crawford to Hong Kong to finally check whether the city could indeed act as a potential stage for Secret Theatre. “I visited for the first time and was struck by its wonderful energy. The locals I met were so charismatic, with a real zest for life,” Crawford recalls. “Everyone I spoke to expressed a real desire for a new theatrical experience and were very interested in the secret, immersive site-specific productions that we were doing.” Burke agrees: “From my point of view this is the first time a project like this has taken place in the city, so we’re treading on a fresh path that is exciting but also the unknown. I really believe that we can produce something magical, so I’m really looking forward to the launch!”

It’s difficult for the duo to remain so adamantly tight-lipped about their work. Each production is untitled, as the aim is audiences should go in with an open mind and pick up on clues along the way. Crawford states, “Keeping the titles a secret really makes for a unique experience.” The suspense starts long before the show begins – when the ticket is purchased, the audience member is sent a secret address with special instructions and a password. Burke emphasises that the Hong Kong show will be ‘over land, over sea’, whatever that may mean. “By choosing not to perform in traditional theatres,” Crawford explains, “we are making the whole experience more of an adventure.” 

Usually based on famous films, their previous productions include Edward Scissorhands in a disused factory in New York and Reservoir Dogs in a London warehouse. All that can be revealed about the Hong Kong show is that it is a thriller involving a murderer on the loose. The audience will be asked to bring masks – “That is the theme for this particular show,” Crawford reveals, “Audiences can get involved as much as they want in this capacity.” Begged one last time for hints about the upcoming show, the director laughs, “Ha! Well, I don’t want to say too much, but expect a thriller of a ride that’s not for the faint hearted! In the words of Hunter S Thompson, ‘buy the ticket, take the ride!’”

Secret Theatre, secret location, Tickets: $918; eventbrite.co.uk, Every Thu-Sun until Dec 13, sunset performances every Sat.

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