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Hong Kong Repertory Theatre Presents SPEAKING IN TONGUES


Hong Kong Repertory Theatre Presents SPEAKING IN TONGUES

Hong Kong Repertory Theatre presents Speaking in Tongues.

A complex web of relationships meeting a mysterious array of plot developments, Speaking in Tongues features four actors in nine roles playing three seemingly unrelated episodes, presenting multiple events from different perspectives. The story and its ramifications from diverse angles unfold as the narrative traverses time and space, with character relationships overlapping and crisscrossing as we face the choice between betrayal and trust. When Speaking in Tongues premiered in Sydney in 1996, it garnered tremendous acclaim and won an AWGIE for Best Play. Since then, the play has graced stages in Europe and America, and was adapted into the award-winning film Lantana. Speaking in Tongues is written by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell and translated by Li Huan-hsung (Taiwan). It is now adapted into Cantonese and directed by HKRep Artistic Director Anthony Chan. This production features HKRep company members Chris Sun, Karrie Tan, Mercy Wong and Chan Kiu. Speaking in Tongues runs from January 4th to 19th at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre. Tickets are available now from URBTIX outlets.

Speaking in Tongues starts off with two couples embroiled in extra-marital affairs. A high-heeled shoe in the bushes, a therapy session, a few phone messages and numerous love letters trace the overlapping relationships and conflicting emotional associations entangling nine characters. Loneliness and marital bonds are overwhelmed by the thrill to connect intimately with a stranger. Why are we so ill-equipped to speak of love? Despite our best efforts in expressing our emotions, words often fail to communicate what is lodged deep in our hearts.

In the preface to the printed edition of the script, playwight Andrew Bovell writes: "Speaking in Tongues is about the right and wrong of emotional conduct. It's about contracts being broken between intimates while deep bonds are forged between strangers. It maps an emotional landscape typified by a sense of disconnection and a shifting moral code. It's about people yearning for meaning and grabbing onto small moments of hope and humour to combat an increasing sense of alineation."

Poet Li Huan-hsung translated and directed Speaking in Tongues for Taiwan. In an interview with the China Times, he emphasised the play's theme as "how trust can destroy and how betrayal can redeem". He also said, "although the playwright is Australian and the story seems common, the way human character and urban lives are depicted in the script and the overlapping narratives present a challenge to the actors and the director. The chilling effect of the dialogue and plot resonate deeply with the audience."

The subject and structure of Speaking in Tongues strike a deep chord with Cantonese adaptor and director Anthony Chan. To him, "Bovell's script shines a light on human suffering and how it weighs on life. The complex interplay of the characters and plotlines seems to posit a difficult mathematical formula, or perhaps an exciting game of chess. In the beginning, things are murky, yet we find that there is a way to solve the puzzle. Moreover, the characters are always at the precipice of a breakdown, yet they must swallow their tears because they are in the company of others. They must continue the dialogue rather than grind to a halt. Perhaps they are awaiting the moment when everything will explode. This might indeed be the case for many people today-in face of life, in face of other people, no matter how much we suffer inside, we must bear with it and continue to live."

About Translator & Director Anthony Chan

Anthony Chan is among the few distinguished theatre professionals in Hong Kong with expertise not only in playwriting and directing but also in set design, theatre education and stage management. To date, his scripts (including translations and adaptations) number more than a hundred; he has directed 82 productions and designed sets for 13 shows. A former Head of Directing and Playwriting at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), having served for 19 years at the institution, he has dedicated himself to nurturing a new generation of playwrights and directors. He also devised the institution's curriculum for the MFA degree in Drama (Directing) before his departure.

A frequent award-winner, Chan was named Artist of the Year by the Hong Kong Artists' Guild in 1991. Other accolades include "Outstanding Achievements of the Decade" (1994) and "Outstanding Translator-Silver Jubilee Commemorative Award" (2009) from the Hong Kong Federation of Drama Societies. His works had also received numerous awards from the Hong Kong Federation of Drama Societies and the Chinese Drama Festival.

Chan's scripts, each a microcosm of dramatic mastery, cover a wide range of topics, from his first masterpiece Metamorphosis under the Stars, to Footprint in the Snow ("Best Production" at the 10th Chinese Drama Festival, 2016), an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, the original musical Field of Dreams ("Best Overall Performance" at the Hong Kong Drama Awards, 2008), A Bowlful of Kindness, a nostalgic look at the good old days of Hong Kong. All are testaments to Chan's unique perspective and ability to shape words for the stage, as well as his enthusiasm and talent in the dramatic arts.

Since assuming the position of Artistic Director at the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre (HKRep) in 2008, Anthony Chan has helmed such productions as Caligula (translator, director), A Flea in Her Ear (adaptor, director), Boundless Movement (director), Scrooge - the Musical (translator), CaoYu's Last Soliloquy (playwright), Love's Labour's Won (playwright, director), Reverie of an Empire (playwright), 18/F Flat C (co-playwright, director), Wait Until Dark (translator, director), Hello, Dolly! - the musical (translator, director), Wolf in the House (director), The Imaginary Invalid (translator), 1894 Hong Kong Plague - the Musical (co-playwright), In Times of Turmoil (director), Buried Child (translator), Reincarnation of the Prunus Mume (playwright, director), La Cage aux Folles (translator, director) and The Big Meal (translator, director). Adhering to the artistic mission of the HKRep, Chan contributes his talents in playwriting, directing and management, boosting productions of original local works and the Black Box Theatre, expanding the company's offerings such as the Reader's Theatre and Playwright Lab, fostering theatre literature studies, publication and education while strengthening international exchange. Always keen to discover the next generation of theatre artists, Chan has helped forge a new direction for the HKRep.

Chan obtained his MA from the University of Colorado at Denver, having received prior training in theatre, art and design. In June 2013, he was made an HKAPA Honorary Fellow. He is currently a member of the China Theatre Association and an assessor of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

Speaking in Tongues

4, 7-11, 14-18.1.2020


5, 11-12, 18-19.1.2020


Hong Kong City Hall Theatre

$320 / $260 / $200

$300 / $250 / $190(Weekday Special)

Tickets available at URBTIX


  • HKRep Pals enjoy 15% discount
  • Half price tickets available for people with disabilities and the minder, senior citizens ages 60 or above and full-time students enrolled in a local educational institution. (Limited offer on a first-come-first-served basis)

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