Saturday, 18 January 2020

Bamboo Theaters | Hong Kong

Readers of this blog are well aware of my recent fascination with Chinese opera which culminated in the production of my sixth photo book "Chinese Opera of the Diaspora". My photographic work documenting this ancient art form took over two years, and had me travel many times to Hong Kong, amongst other countries and cities.

However, it was in Hong Kong that became familiar with the term "bamboo theaters". Having spent time at the venues where performances were to be held, I witnessed the rapid erection of these makeshift structures a few days (or even hours) before the various festivals and deities' anniversaries. In other countries, wooden poles rather than bamboo are used for such street theaters.

Bamboo is the traditional material to build these theaters in Hong Kong, but some still fear that bamboo scaffolding be replaced by metal or wood structures used elsewhere, but others do not believe think bamboo theaters will be replaced.
Film director director Cheuk Cheung has recently work on his third documentary on Chinese opera titled Bamboo Theatre. His first two were My Way and My Next Step.

Bamboo Theater deals with the architecture of these structures, and features villages around Hong Kong, such as Sai Kung, Po Toi, High Island and Peng Chau, that regularly build bamboo theaters to celebrate the birth of Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea. The construction of these traditional bamboo theaters requires no nails, no glue and no tools of any kind. The bamboo poles are just latched together with bindings.

The majority of these operas are produced by small local troupes and staged by residents’ associations.

The documentary's Facebook page tells us that it followed the ritual practices in various villages and remote islands of Hong Kong for two years. It documents this traditional cultural space, its way of building and dismantling, as well as the collaborative work of troupes’ performers, stage managers and wardrobe.