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[中][ENG] 通過舞台空間觀照自我:專訪舞台設計師王健偉

Setting the Stage for Self-exploration: Interview with Stage Designer Jan Wong


文:黃寶儀


一個人的哪吒 》<蓮生>/ 攝 : Henry Wong@S2 Production (照片由 香港舞蹈團 提供)



舞台是一個充滿開放性與可能性的空間。不論是個體抽象的內心世界,抑或具象的生活場景,皆可借舞台設計師之手再現台上。對舞台設計師王健偉而言,舞台不單是呈現作品主題的空間,同時也是探索自我與實驗構想的場域。


以生活體驗連結創作


舞蹈空間設計是一個自我詰問以及與舞作主題對話的過程。戲劇演出有劇本可依,佈景與舞台場景需配合與呈現文本書寫。然而,舞蹈創作起始於富有詮釋空間的概念,意念的成型乃依靠創作團隊以自身生活為養分,來探索與回應舞作主題。王健偉談到:「舞蹈創作是一個自我認識的過程。創作者通過自身生活狀態與舞蹈作品碰撞,並從中尋找與提煉出回應作品主題的方式。」


正因舞蹈與生活緊密連結,舞作成了舞台設計師自我觀照的原點。王健偉以舞劇《一個人的哪吒》為例,哪吒雖然只有一個,但每個人如何進入以及理解哪吒所面對的孤獨感卻截然不同。該作的製作期正值疫情嚴峻之時,王健偉在劇場重開無期時籌備舞作:「當時所感的孤獨並非來自於孤軍作戰,而是面對疫情的未知與變化,要思考如何應對與放下。」其以生活體驗代入角色處境,並與舞作題材對話。最終,懸於其心頭的思慮與壓在哪吒身上的重擔,化成舞台上方如金剛圈般的巨形圓環裝置。


界於虛實之間的舞台空間


除了構建可視的物質空間外,舞台設計師亦需配合編舞意念,以氛圍感形塑空間意義。相對於具象呈現建築結構,王健偉更著意於空間的虛空層面,即如何借空間生發意義。在參與粵劇改編的舞作《紫玉成煙》時,他捨棄傳統的舞台設計,只以兩條窄路交疊而成的十字路口構建演區。王健偉解釋;「舞者受制於窄路,只能專注前行,其在路上的轉彎、前進與決定都能為舞作的意義增添層次。」十字路口盛載了才子佳人的悲歡離合,也隱喻了角色站在人生交叉點匍匐前行的狀態。


空間虛實意義的建構歷經反覆的調整。王健偉強調與編舞的溝通極為關鍵,通過交談與描畫草圖來理解空間的力度(energy flow)。他補充:「空間設計有時會以重拳一擊來引發事件,但有時只需順其自然地配合事件發生。」雙方對設計師角色的定位影響空間的線條與風格。除了藝術層面的討論外,舞台設計師亦要試驗設計的可行性。當《紫玉成煙》的窄路按平面圖鋪設後,舞者反映舞動空間過窄,王因而擴闊了中間的路口。台上空間的構建需要兼顧編舞的意念與舞者的實際需要作調整。



一個人的哪吒 》<蓮生>/ 攝 : Henry Wong@S2 Production (照片由 香港舞蹈團 提供)



劇場空間的觀演實驗


變幻不定為舞蹈空間的特質,舞者間的拉扯、互動能改變空間大小與壓迫感。王健偉強調舞台設計師乃在為舞者建構平台,讓其以身體表意,從而誘發觀者想像。在《尋找許仙》中,大幅的油紙鋪在舞台中央,舞者以身沾墨在紙上書寫。紙佔據了舞台的實體空間,又指向了建構傳說的幻想空間。舞蹈空間在有與無間來回,王健偉續說:「設計師有時會暫停描述空間,只是無空間並不代表舞台空間處於一片空白,而是由實在的視覺語言導向了抽象的思考或幻想空間。」


舞台設計師的工作不限於演區設計,觀演關係的定位也為其所關注。當設計師改變舞台與觀眾席的關係時,也在開拓觀看演出的可能性。王健偉表示:「觀者即使身歷其中,也未必可以全部看到,只能選擇看甚麼。選擇可以提升舞蹈創作的意義。」其在設計《紅樓.夢三闋》的空間時,捨棄了鏡框式舞台,並善用香港文化中心劇場的結構。上層觀眾站立遠觀,而下層觀眾近觀台上人事,並成了被觀看的一部分。當觀眾有機地融入舞作之中,其接收與思考演出的方式亦會因而轉變。

一個人的哪吒 》<家父>/ 攝 : Henry Wong@S2 Production (照片由 香港舞蹈團 提供)



在變幻中生出可能


比起建立單一的個人風格,王健偉更傾向試驗嶄新元素,並刻意不作自我重複。他保持靈活的取向,正好配合香港變化不定的特質。談到本地舞台設計師最大的優勢,他直言:「香港每一秒都在變,但我們可以在不同事物中選擇與思考,並從中找到自己的出路。」即使挑戰不斷,本地的劇場工作者仍保有對藝術創作的執著。


只是在這座以經濟掛帥的城市裡,舞台設計師要維持一定的工作收入,便不得不同時兼顧多個劇場演出。王健偉明言此生態限制了舞台設計師參與製作的投入程度,然而他仍樂觀回應:「同時製作多個作品能刺激思考。在不斷累積以及深入發掘事物的不同面向時,思考的層次也能因而提升。」


投身舞台設計逾十載,王健偉仍不時感到迷失,但他視之為必經狀態。對於舞台設計,他期許創作者能不以制度、觀眾品味以及科技趨勢為前設,集中思考創作意念,並從中發掘新的可能性。



採訪日期和時間:2022年10月20日15:00

面試地點:IATC(HK)辦公室

採訪者:Bernice Chan


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黃寶儀


藝評人。熱愛文學、舞蹈及戲劇。評論文章曾刊於《明報》、《三角志》及《上海藝術評論》等文化刊物。




Setting the Stage for Self-exploration: Interview with Stage Designer Jan Wong

Text: Bowie Wong

Translator: Penny Zhou


The stage is a place of openness and boundless possibilities. Whether it’s the interior world of a character or a realistic scenario, everything — whether abstract or concrete — can be recreated on the stage at the hands of a skilful stage designer. For Jan Wong, the stage is not only a space to illustrate the core message of a work, but also a canvas for experimentation and self-exploration.


A Process Rooted in Personal Experience


The design of a dance space is a conversation between the self and the work. This is different from a play, where there is a script to follow and use as the basis for the set design. Dance creation, on the other hand, is rooted in interpreting space, which means that the creators need to draw inspiration from their own life and experience to explore their themes and give tangible shape to abstract ideas. “Creating dance is a process of self-realisation. The creator reflects on their own personal circumstances and emotions, and distils them into a work that responds to the theme,” Wong explains.


Due to the intimate connection between dance and life, dance serves as a mirror for the stage designer to look into him or herself. Wong uses the example of dance theatre piece Nezha: Untold Solitude — Nezha is the sole protagonist of the story, yet there are a thousand Nezhas in a thousand people's eyes, because each individual has their own way of understanding and relating to Nezha’s solitude. The work was created at the height of the pandemic, so Wong had the surreal experience of designing a show when there was no telling when or how theatres would reopen. “At the time, I was feeling lonely — not because I was doing it alone, but because of the changes and uncertainties brought by the pandemic,” he recalls. “I had to think hard about how to face the challenges and what to let go.” This made him empathise with the character and the theme on a personal level and inspired him to create the giant ring installation suspended above the stage — a symbol both of the emotional burden carried by Nezha, and Wong’s own loneliness and anxiety.


Nezha: Untold Solitude》<The Game>/ credit : Henry Wong@S2 Production (provided by Hong Kong Dance Company)


A Space Between Two Realms


In addition to constructing a visible, physical space, the stage designer also has the tricky task of creating a mood that reflects the choreography and represents the theme of each dance piece. Compared to building a concrete architectural structure, Wong finds it more gratifying to figure out how to conjure up a more elusive spatial presence symbolic of something deeper. When working on Waiting Heart, a dance adaptation of a classic Cantonese opera, Wong traded conventional stage design for a radical approach — building a crossroads of two narrow paths at the centre of the stage. “This drastically restricts the amount of space and the directions that the dancers can move in, which gives each of their movement decisions — when to turn, where to step — more meaning,” he says. The intersection embodies the union and separation between the two lovers in the story, as well as the tough decisions they face as they stand at a crossroads in life.


Building different layers of meaning into a stage design and achieving the perfect balance is a long and arduous process. Wong emphasises the importance of communicating with the choreographer and establishing a mutual understanding of the energy flow of the space through discussion and sketches. “Sometimes, the design is there to hit you in the face and trigger a major event to move the story forward; at other times, it’s there to complement the progression of the plot organically,” he notes. The purpose of the design is a determining factor for the style and structure of the stage space.


Apart from artistic considerations, designers also have to test the feasibility of their designs when put into practice. During the early rehearsals of Waiting Heart, the dancers expressed concern that the paths were too narrow for them to move freely. Based on their feedback, Wong expanded the crossroads. This is a good example of how adjustments are made according to the practical needs of those actually using the space.

《Waiting Heart》(2021)/ credit : Cheung Chi Wai@Moon 9 image (provided by Hong Kong Dance Company)


Bold Experimentation and Radical Results


A dance space needs to have a plasticity that allows it to change in size and ambience as the dancers continuously move and interact within it. Wong believes the key assignment for the stage designer is to create a space that enables the dancers to express emotions and ideas through their bodies and capture the imagination of the audience. Take his stage design for In Search of Hui Sin: a large sheet of paper lies in the middle of the stage, and the dancers dip themselves in ink and use their bodies to create a work of calligraphy. The paper takes up a physical space on the stage while also creating an imaginary space in the mind of the audience.


In a sense, the dance space serves as a conduit between the physical and the metaphysical. “Sometimes the designer chooses to leave blanks in a space, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. It’s a way of provoking abstract thinking or imagination through the use of visual language,” Wong says.


In addition, the stage designer plays an integral part in determining the relationship between the production and the audience. In this aspect of the job, the designer has the power to broaden the possibilities of the audience’s viewing experience. “Audience members can’t see everything on the stage all the time, often they have to choose what to look at,” Wong explains. “And that choice can bring added layers of meaning to the work.”


When designing for Reveries of the Red Chamber, Wong made the decision not to construct a traditional proscenium-style setting, but instead to fully embrace the inherent structure of the Studio Theatre at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Audience members on the upper circle watched the show standing and viewers in stalls seats around the stage area experienced the dance up-close while being observed by those upstairs at the same time. Such an organic integration of the audience with the show leads to new possibilities of how a work is received and perceived.

《Waiting Heart》(2021)/ credit : Cheung Chi Wai@Moon 9 image (provided by Hong Kong Dance Company)



Change Spawns Possibility


Instead of sticking to a specific personal style, Wong prefers the unpredictability and excitement of constant experimentation and makes a conscious effort not to repeat himself. His propensity for change and newness perfectly echoes Hong Kong’s adaptability and innovative spirit. Speaking of the biggest advantage for local stage designers, he notes, “Hong Kong is changing with every passing moment, and this propels us to choose and think, and eventually find our own path forward.” Despite facing mounting challenges, local theatre professionals have remained committed to their artistic endeavours.


However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In a city largely defined by its economic power, in order to sustain a stable income stage designers often have to take on multiple jobs at the same time. Wong admits that is a reality which sometimes limits the designer’s breadth and depth of involvement in each production, but he stays optimistic, “Working on different shows simultaneously isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It simulates the mind, pushing you to discover new perspectives and connections and dig deeper into your mind and heart.”


After more than a decade in the field, Wong confesses that he still feels lost sometimes, but he knows that this is an inevitable feeling for a creative person. In an ideal world, he would hope to see that rules and systems, audience preferences and technological trends are no longer at the forefront of theatre workers’ minds when they develop a work, that instead they can focus on creative concepts and artistic goals and mine new possibilities and original ideas from within themselves.




Interview date and time: 20 October 2022 15:00

Interview venue: IATC(HK) office

Interviewer: Bernice Chan


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Bowie Wong


Bowie Wong is an art critic with a passion for literature, dance and theatre. Her works have been featured on Ming Pao, Delta Zhi, Shanghai Art Review and other cultural publications.

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