Written by Wu Zonglun
Translated by Stephy Yeung
What does it mean, the codes 13·67?
13·67 is not a mathematical constant like π nor the password to unlock the last door in an escape room. It is not as complicated and mysterious as you thought – rather, it simply implies the years 2013 and 1967, and the six stories happened in the fifty-something years in between.
As a new production of the restructuring literary classics series, this time, Mathias Woo placed his cultural lens in Hong Kong, where he was born and raised. The story of The Borrowed begins in 1967, and Mathias Woo was born in 1968 – the forty-six years in the fiction of The Borrowed can be said as a summary of Hong Kong in Mathias’s memory.
The original novel The Borrowed narrates from the perspective of inspector partners who are familiar to Hong Kongers. The book is about six mysteries from 1967-2013, told in reverse chronology – presenting to the readers a turbulent time in the city’s extensive history.
As said by Anthony Chan, the artistic director of the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, 13·67’s plots of solving the mystery are unpredictable and surprising. These plots are the reworking of the original novel. To the audience who have read the book before, the stage adaptation brings a deeper understanding of the fiction – with the genre of experimental theatre, a new comprehension of the story can be attained.
Other things that grabbed the audience’s attention were the sound effects and the stage design closely tied to the performance. Apart from using pop song classics that bring nostalgia and reminiscence, 13·67 also utilises an all-rounded soundscape system that immerses the audience in the theatre. The audience being interviewed mentioned that they felt the production team’s attention to details when working on the sound design, and the final result was also astonishing.
The acting area of 13·67 is relatively small with a very narrow stage design. Actors must work with stage design elements to lead the audience to a complicated, fast-paced story. In the process, the stage design of 13·67 left a deep impression on the audience. As mentioned by the audience, the striking projection design, actors, sounds, and other elements work together to give a superb narration that makes the realistic scenes even more natural and enriches the fiction’s historical background. At the same time, according to the different plots, different techniques are used to design the stage. Such details allow the audience to distinguish the plot’s development clearly and unravel the play’s structure.
To many audiences, the original plot of The Borrowed is fascinating and an excellent blueprint for a stage adaptation – this could be the main reason for them to get their tickets to 13·67. Nevertheless, Mathias Woo’s intriguing original interpretation of the novel, the creative team’s carefully designed stage and sound effects, and the actors’ enthusiastic enactment give the audience a breath-taking experience that transcends expectations.