On a Friday evening, when most teenagers are getting ready to meet their friends, Stanley Chiu Kai-shing and Rae Lee are sitting in a quiet rehearsal room at ArtisTree in Quarry Bay, wiping their drenched bodies and changing out of their soaked clothes.
Stanley, 19, from the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (HKAPA), and Rae, 17, from Chinese International School have just completed six weeks of rehearsals for Flood, the first collaboration between Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation (YAF) and the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain (NYT).
Inspired by the challenges countries face from flooding, the performance is a visual spectacle, and makes use of a moving set, a rain bath, and a digital screen.
“I don’t know if it’s a Hong Kong thing, but everyone is so geared towards making things happen!” says Joel Scott, director of Flood, adding that the – sometimes outlandish – requests they’ve made to both YAF and ArtisTree have been met with utmost enthusiasm.
“This would never happen in Britain," he says, with a cheeky grin.
While most actors just have to worry about remembering lines, the cast of Flood have to jump and run on a very slippery surface, which does come with its downfalls. Stanley injured his leg during rehearsal once.
“Working with water brings a whole different layer of challenges,” says Rae.
“Everything changes in the water,” she adds. “Our costumes become heavier, and our props change shape; which makes everything so much more dynamic.”
“It’s been amazing so far!” said Scott. “I’ve been completely blown away by the talent Hong Kong has to offer.”
The 22-member cast of the sold-out show has been painstakingly chosen from a group of 200 actors who auditioned last year for a chance to collaborate with the famed theatre company that has worked with the likes of Hollywood actors Orlando Bloom and Helen Mirren.
“These guys were all good movers and could all speak text well,” said Scott, “But the reason why these 22 made it to the end was because they are willing to take risks, to make mistakes, and they are bold and brave.”
As young people, ready to take their first steps in the creative industry, their outlook is slightly different from the veterans that have been working in the industry for years.
“There is a certain freshness and a lack of ego that you see when working with young talent,” says Scott. “They’re desperate to create more art, and it’s an incredible environment to be in.”
Rae, who has worked with YAF before, came with no expectations of what would happen. “Going into the production, I wanted to be surprised,” she says.
“I haven’t seen the sunlight in forever,” jokes Stanley, emphasising that most of their rehearsal time is spent indoors doing warm-ups, and preparing for the highly physical performance.
“Individually, I think every cast member can say that they have surprised themselves,” says Rae. “We have really challenged our physical boundaries, and pushed ourselves to our limit.”
“Flood is a one-of-a-kind show, something that I have been really lucky to be a part of,” says Stanley. “The audience will leave the theatre with a lot to think about.
“You will definitely see the world through a new set of eyes.”