Zuni Experimenting Eileen Chang
Eileen Chang 100
In over thirty years after Zuni's formal inception, it has reinterpreted various works by Eileen Chang, including The Secret (1982), Vanity Fair (1986), 18 Springs (2003/2012), and more. 2020's latest production - Eileen Chang 100 Read Sing Eileen
Date: June, November
Location: Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
"Art is often referred to as a mirror. In the mirror you can see yourself. You can see the background that is invisible to you. You also see the relationship between you and the background. In the creative process, the same is true of the dialogue with Eileen Chang as we try to understand her, the object. During the process of our dialogue with the object, we finally discover that the object of our dialogue turns out to be nevertheless our own selves. What comes next depends on our willingness to deal with ourselves seriously, review ourselves wholeheartedly." ── Danny Yung
Zuni has inherited the spirit of Eileen Chang on stage, revealing to the readers and audience that life and society, like a glamorous gown, is infested with fleas - a quote from her book My Dream of Being a Genius "Life is like a glamorous gown that is infested with fleas". Chang has unique views on Chinese people, Chinese culture, and the female identity. These themes and texts provide good sources of material for interpretation in Zuni's experimental theatre. After its formal inception, Zuni's first performance in Hong Kong was The Secret (1982), followed by One Woman / Two Stories (1983), Vanity Fair - A Love Story in Glamorous Costume (1986), and The Legend (1995). Since the millennium, Zuni has invited talents from across the Strait to cooperate in the adaptation of Chang's works in 18 Springs (2003 and 2012 versions) and Red Rose, White Rose (2014). With the input of multimedia and musical elements, the performances have become a unique genre of Musical Drama. 
The year 2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Eileen Chang. In a tribute to this legendary female writer, Zuni launches the Eileen Chang 100 series with the performances Read Sing Eileen Chang. As a prelude to the new series, let's recall the previous performances of Zuni X Eileen Chang over the years.

Zuni X Eileen Chang Experimental Theatre Repertoire

"The ingeniously designed scenes aroused in the audience a sense of beauty, capturing their attention totally." ~Lin Tse, Columnist

"I’ve borrowed Eileen Chang to express my own taboos in The Secret. " ~ Edward Lam, Director
The Secret(1982)
The Secret was Zuni's first performance in Hong Kong. Directed by Edward Lam, it was adapted from a novella of the same title by Eileen Chang dealing with an extraordinary passion between a father and daughter. The interplay of text, language, lighting, and stage design in the performance accentuated the sense of alienation among the characters in the novel.

June 1982 Premiere / Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Creative Team
Script: Ng Suk Yin, Edward Lam
Director: Edward Lam
Set Design: Danny Yung
Performers: Susie Au, Millie Wong, Janet Tong, Winnie Ho, Alice Cheng, Claudia Wan, Wong Pik Man, Brigitte Sheung

"Novels can be turned into paintings." ~ Edward Lam, Director
One Woman / Two Stories (1983)
Eileen Chang is well-known for her profound portrayal of women. One Woman / Two Stories is based on Chang's novellas The Story of Yindi and The Golden Cangue. Both tales portray the inner struggles of women against an enclosed family in a society in transition. The performance One Woman / Two Stories went beyond being a mere novel adaptation or a story theatre but was a "theatre event" that enabled the audience to glimpse the charm of the female characters in the world of Eileen Chang.

April 1983 Premiere / Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Creative Team
Director: Edward Lam
Script writer: Jacob Wong
Sound: Jim Shum
Lighting, Set design: James Wong
Costume design: Thomas Chan, Tak-shu Pun
Sara Law
Performers: Margaret Lee, Janet Tong, David Yeung, Joseph Yip, Pia Ho, Joseph Lau, Tony Tam, Millie Wong, Arthur Chiang, Susie Au, Pik-man Wong, Alice Cheng, Sara Law, Audrey Poon, Claudia Wan, Vennis Chen, Florin Yun, Onion Yuen

"As a play with "glamorous costumes and sets", Vanity Fair, from stage design to the rhetoric of the narration, is unavoidably permeated with the glamorous air of talented men and beautiful ladies." ~ Sing Tao Daily

"Vanity Fair had its premiere in 1986 with fashion as its content... When the show was rerun in the 21st century, the theme remains the same as the evolution of fashion can equate with a country's transformation. The change fully reflects the country moving from the traditional to the contemporary in political and cultural domains. The same is true of China moving towards modernisation whilst Hong Kong's political power has already been transferred."  ~ Hong Kong Economic Journal
Vanity Fair - A Love Story in Glamorous Costume(1986/ 2000)
The original essay Vanity Fair - A Love Story in Glamorous Costume describes Eileen Chang's experience on viewing Shaoxing opera during a visit to Wenzhou. Directed by Danny Yung and Edward Lam and premiering in 1986, the performance Vanity Fair - A Love Story in Glamorous Costume infused leisure into politics, and politics into fashion. In March 2000, Vanity Fair was the opening performance of the Journey 2000 Festival, and in April the same year, it was invited to be staged in the Extremes of the World Festival (Culturgest) in Lisbon.

Production Journey
August 1986 Premiere / Theatre, Hong Kong City Hall
September 1986 Re-run / Theatre, Hong Kong City Hall
March 2000 Re-run / Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre
April 2000 Re-run / Culturgest / Lisbon

Creative Team (Aug & Sep 1986)
Director: Danny Yung, Edward Lam
Collaborators: Pia Ho, David Yeung, Janet Tong, Dick Wong, Millie Wong, Johnny Au, Glenis Wong, Lawrence Wong, Wong Pik Man, Gabriel Yiu, Mandy Chan, Bobby Sham, Sara Law, Wong Kwan Sun, Ramona Cheung, Mike Chan, Theresa Leung, Thomas Chan, Jessie Dai, Pun Tak Shu, Vicky Leong, Wong Chi Fai

Creative Team (Mar & Apr 2000)
Director: Danny Yung
Costume Design: Vivienne Tam
Performance: Doris Kan, Carmen Wu, Evelyn Yeung, Millie Wong, Cedric Chan, Yeung Chi Kuk , Luka Wong, Pollux Kwok
Guest Performance: Tian Mansha (Chengdu)*

*Apr 2000 performance

"Eileen Chang's words are "borrowed" in order to be "taken out of context". It could be a pretense; it could be an excuse. The subject matter can then be seized upon for limitless development. With the concept of "borrowing", endless entanglements come along. Yet without the entanglements, there will be no drama at all." ~ Danny Yung, Director

"What's interesting is that there is a commonality among the four directors in their treatment of the subject matter reflected by the use of recount, monologue, and factuality. However, the way the subject matters are linked and the angles from which they are presented, or even the way they are constructed, all tends to change according to the handling of each director. The Legend has become Zuni's most complex work in the past two years."
~ Leung Man-tao, Writer / Media Person
The Legend(1995)
In 1995, shortly after Making of the Legend, directed by Joseph Lau, was staged at Hong Kong Arts Centre, the news of Eileen Chang's death arrived. The Legend was staged immediately in the same month, almost as a memorial tribute to her. Four directors - Danny Yung, Joseph Lau, Edward Lam and Mathias Woo - each made their own interpretation from four perspectives in four chapters: the theatre of Hong Kong, the portrayal of life, the making of legends, and the association with politics.

September 1995 Premiere / Theatre, Sheung Wan Civic Centre, Hong Kong

Creative Team
Director: Danny Yung, Edward Lam, Joseph Lau, Mathias Woo
Performers: Millie Wong, Pia Ho, Wong Pik Man, Yu Yat Yiu, Johnson Lo, Yu Wai Leung, Ivan Chan, Kary Kwok, Jimmy Kwok, Chung Yik Wah, Denny Wong, Evelyn Yeung

Creators: Michael Lam, Glenis Wong, Eben Lu, Kary Kwok, Anthony Wong, Tats Lau

"On the stage, the textual aesthetics of this literary work are presented through the voice and performance of actors. Actors are not reading their roles out, but are themselves a reader who fantasizes on the texts. Performing in front of the audience, the "opponent" of the actor is not the one on stage, but it is the actor himself/herself."  ~ Mathias Woo, Co-directors and Scriptwriters

"Only in the space of theatre/stage can the duplicity and inconsistency of the characters in the novel be revealed in great clarity and thoroughness via voices, sounds and images to the audience... At the risk of being criticized as merely reciting the book, Mathias Woo and I decided to place the subject matter of the performance above the text of the original work." ~ Edward Lam, Co-directors and Scriptwriters

“Every detail represents a specific feeling of the protagonist. The way the emotions are created is exactly the ingenious point that distinguishes this play from other adaptations of Eileen Chang's work."  ~ Beijing Youth Daily

“From scriptwriting, directing, acting, image design, movements, music, lyrics, video, sound effects, to the enormous panels of bookshelves... and the large bunch of yellow daisies in the proscenium, all are so meticulously arranged that the audience is mesmerized. Cultural gaps between the Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are undetectable, only a sense of natural flow without the piercing marks of carving...Congratulations! Zuni has found the balance and explosiveness between literature and avant-garde; art and market." ~ Bernadette Tsui, Columnist
18 Springs (2003)
18 Springs was a multimedia music performance based on the novel of the same title by the famous writer Eileen Chang. It was the first cross-region collaboration between the National Theatre Company of China and Zuni, and a ground-breaking cultural exchange across the Strait. Eileen Chang showed us in this story that love without regrets could never be perfect love. The novel was written with very fine details, displaying the intricate working of the psychology of men and women involved in the entanglement of love. At the same time, the novel also illustrated the "mind-forged manacles" created by the morals and ethics of China and their effects on the people who were in pursuit of free love. The directors Mathias Woo and Edward Lam translated the powerful language of Eileen Chang into a vivid stage experience.

Production Journey
November 2003 Premiere / Auditorium, Kwai Tsing Theatre
June 2004 Re-run / National Theatre / Taipei
January 2005 Re-run / Shou Du Ju Chang (Capital Theatre) / Beijing

Creative Team
Artistic Directors: Zhou Youliang, Danny Yung

Co-directors and Scriptwriters: Mathias Woo, Edward Lam
Creative Advisor, Video and Vocal Performance:  Sylvia Chang
Dramaturg: Meng Jinghui
Leading Actors: René Liu, Liao Fan
Performers: Han Qing, Ting Naichang, Chen Lihua, Hai Qing
Guest Performers: Wang Bing*, Xu Lei*^, Li Yunjie*^, Guo Jinglin*^,  Wang Nan^
* Nov 2003 performance
^ Jun 2004 & Jan 2005 performance

"During the research on Eileen Chang, I came to know that she loved Suzhou tanci a lot. Suddenly I hit upon a bright idea - to use music to recount the plot and its twists in 18 Springs." ~ Mathias Woo, Director

“The Suzhou tanci is rather impressive. The charm of the melody and tunes of strings combine traditional art forms and modern stage production.” ~ Hong Kong Economic Journal

“The role of Elaine Jin is originally a graceful singer who looks at things indifferently. In 18 Springs, songs are inserted to outline the development of the plot and the propeller of emotions - the reinterpretation of the novel's narrator as a singer.” ~ Jass Leung, Wen Wei Po columnist
18 Springs (2012)
Director Mathias Woo said, “The difference (compared to 18 Springs in 2003) is that the 2012 version combines the elements of a musical with drama. I've added the storytelling ballads and old songs of Suzhou pingtan into the performance, integrating drama and multimedia. Music is arranged to drive emotions, whereas words, dialogues, monologues are used to reveal the characters' state of mind... Multimedia elements can be treated with movie-making techniques for the expression of time, space and emotion through images, allowing the audience to have clearer views of the actors' facial expressions and the character's emotions to be more accentuated. One thing stays the same though, that is time remains the main concept in this version." The 18 Springs 2012 version is Zuni's collaboration with the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre co-written by Mathias Woo and Jimmy Ngai, with Yu Yat-yiu as Music Director, and special appearances by singer Elaine Jin, and Suzhou tanci master Jin Lisheng. The performance gives a new interpretation of the story in 18 Springs about seven men and women whose impressive encounters lead to entanglements in seven relationships.

Production Journey
September 2012 Premiere / Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
February 2013 Re-run / Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
September 2013 Re-run / Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
May 2014 Re-run / Macao Cultural Centre Grand Auditorium
June 2014 Re-run / Shanghai Culture Square

Creative Team
Director / Designer: Mathias Woo
Scriptwriters: Jimmy Ngai, Mathias Woo
Music Director / Composer: Yu Yat-yiu@PMPS
Special Appearance: Elaine Jin
Suzhou tanci (storytelling and ballad singing in the Suzhou dialect): Jin Li-sheng, Yu Qun
Performers: Zhang Qi*^#, Shen Lei*^#, Xu Manman*^#, Xie Changying*^#, He Yanqi*^, Jia Jinghui*^, He Bin*^#, Zhang Zhongyi*#, Choi Tai-ho#

*Members of Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre
^Sep 2012, Feb 2013, May 2014 & Jun 2014 performance
#Sep 2013 performance 
"At times, pop music impacts people's concept of love.  As Eileen Chang said, one always sees a picture of the sea before the real sea itself. The same is true for love, one reads about it in romantic novels before knowing it. Nowadays people seem to know and feel their own love through pop music. However, can they really verify their love through pop music, or are they too conditioned by popular culture, and unthinkingly equate themselves with the one featured in pop music? Should the concepts of happiness, pain, and heartbreak be understood simply as that without much questioning?"
~ Pia Ho, Co-scriptwriter

"The deep-seated problems "hidden" in Eileen Chang's story are revealed. With performers mastering the interpretation of the "new characters", the show is a highly watchable one and great fun. Mathias Woo has made a successful attempt to integrate elements appealing to refined and popular cultures alike."  ~ Chow Fan-fu, Acclaimed Arts Critic

"This one sings; that one performs. It's extremely creative. They have broken new paths."  ~ Leo Ou-fan Lee, Professor of Chinese literature / Cultural Commentator

"The performance is a successful exploration of the form of speaking in theatre. The performers read out the original texts from Eileen Chang's novel to reveal their true essence. The use of visual aesthetics and diverse staging techniques (including singing, broadcasting, projection) highlight the charm of the performers, and create a new dimension of stage effects." 
~ Cheung Kam-moon, Acclaimed Arts Critic, Wen Wei Po
Red Rose, White Rose(2014)
Following on from 18 Springs Eileen Chang's Red Rose, White Rose was adapted in 2014 with Mathias Woo as Director, Scriptwriter and Designer, Pia Ho as Co-Scriptwriter and Lyricist, and Yu Yat-yiu as Music Director. In an anachronistic added scene in Zuni's adaptation, characters take part in the "Red and White Love Song Karaoke Contest". Performers from Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong jointly interpret the female (Red) and male (White) characters of Eileen Chang's novel through the interplay of monologue, singing and storytelling.

Production Journey
November 2014 Premiere / Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
October 2015 Re-run / Shanghai Culture Square
December 2016 Re-run / Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Creative Team
Director, Scriptwriter & Designer: Mathias Woo
Scriptwriter, Lyricist & Voice Performance: Pia Ho
Music Director, Composer: Yu Yat-yiu @PMPS Kong
Performers & Creation: You Mei* (Shanghai), Kao Jo-shan (Taipei), Kong Aiping# (Nanjing), Kao Jo-shan# (Taipei) , Chen Li-hua# (Taipei), David Yeung
Performers: Theme Song Vocal: Eman Lam

*Members of Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre
^Nov 2014 & Oct 2015 performance
#Dec 2016 performance

“A moving performance with successful directions.” ~ Art Critic