The Set-saving Hairpin
A Night at the Opera: The Monkey King Subdues the
Set/ costume/ lighting/ projection theatre designer
I just finished the lighting and projection design for Re Xin Opera Association’s first full-length Shaoxing Yue opera show, Zhuang Yuan Yu Qi Gai (roughly translates as “The Scholar and the Beggar”), on 12th June. When I was first approached to design for the show, I questioned myself how to design a “meaningful” LED backdrop system (this questioning process had actually started since The Butterfly Lovers earlier this year).
As a play with a high moral message, designing it the traditional way (creating realistic backdrops as if the LED wall is an extension of the real world), it would be too decorative in nature and passive. After much consideration, I adopted a more graphic design approach, using elements of traditional Chinese book and ink painting art as the set’s key visual. The resultant design consists of visuals in different styles of traditional Chinese fan paintings and traditional book art, which serves to provide a deeper connotation that compliment the storyline, and at the same time giving the performance space a sense of antiquity.
The only problem I faced was that I wasn’t sure if this approach would be something that can go down well with the audience, for it is something unseen before locally, especially so in Chinese opera. Hence it was virtually like walking on a tightrope. Thankfully, the final result was satisfying for me, and the response I received were generally positive.