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The WIll to Build Trove

What does this “Rock in the South China Sea” mean to us? 
A provocative piece of “verbatim theatre” that aims to stimulate debate about the value of Hong Kong’s urban heritage.

Exploring five key elements - space, pace, functionality, spirituality and identity, The Will to Build examines the past, present and future of Hong Kong’s relentless cycle of construction and destruction, and its effects on the bodies, hearts and minds of the city’s inhabitants.

This powerful drama skillfully weaves together verbatim transcripts of Theatre du Pif’s interviews with real people who are intimately involved in and affected by the city’s obstinate will to build: construction workers, architects, planners, academics, farmers, politicians, cage-dwellers...


In 2008, Theatre du Pif launched an innovative Hong Kong-UK collaboration in verbatim theatre, with UK video artists Burst TV and British writer Liam Hurley. Queen's Pier. Star Ferry Pier. Wedding Card Street. Graham Street Market. Old Central Police Station. The irreplaceable heart of Hong Kong, or merely irrelevant, unprofitable bricks-and-mortar?


In Nov 08, as the closing performance at the New Vision Arts Festival, Theatre du Pif collaborated with BURST TV, a London-based collective of multi-media artists, and Liam Hurley, a young British theatre practitioner, in a provocative piece of "verbatim theatre" that stimulated debate about the value of Hong Kong's built heritage. This production also celebrated the 60th anniversary of British Council in Hong Kong. 


In 2010, the show was restaged in Hong Kong and at the Shanghai Expo 2010. The new version in 2015 continued to stimulate debate about the value of Hong Kong’s built heritage. 


In 2008, activist Chu Hoi-dik mentioned during the Queen’s Pier movement, “a small group of HK people have newly discovered some ‘treasure boxes’ and accidentally opened them. They were shocked and amazed to discover that they have another ‘history’ or past, which helps them to develop their own identity; a new identity in order to fight against the mainstream one.” Seven years later, more boxes were opened. They were no longer only connected to “the past” or “memory”, but are more about the different “possibilities” for the future. After the Umbrella Movement in 2014, things seem like they are “back to normal”, but what kind of energy has the commotion and feeling aroused transformed into? In which direction will our city move towards? 


“Highly surprising and deeply moving... this production should be performed in all secondary schools, universities, public housing estates and squares in Hong Kong” 
Leo Lee Ou-fan, Ming Pao Daliy News


“A performance with both skill and verve... much needed in a city that is now as densely populated as any in the world” 
The Architects Journal UK, Dec 2008


"The Will to Build consist of a kind of concern with calmness"
Wong Hin-yan, singer-songwriter, 2015


"Every objects on stage provoke imagination. The movement of the performers and the use of space are dynamic and full of lightness. The editing of the complex information is precise and re-fine."
Dr. Natalia Chan, art critic


"I appreciate the use of the folding stool on stage. Their image and sound create a special vibration, with resonates the real current situation of Hong Kong, regarding "preservation" and "demolishing" something."
Franco Yau, theatre practitioner, 2015


"The performance combines sobriety with humor. The subject matter is heavy, but the presentation is down to earth."
Chris Shum, lyrics writer 


"The Will to Build definitely deserves the attention, support and thorough discussion among the practitioners in the field of theatre, drama in education and community theatre."
Chan Ping-chiu, Artistic Director of On and On Theatre Workshop, 2015

"A performance with both skill and verve...much needed in a city that is now as densely populated as any in the world."
The Architects Journal UK, Dec 2008

"Highly surprising and deeply moving...this production should be performed in all secondary schools, universities, public housing estates and squares in Hong Kong."
Leo Lee Ou-fan, Ming Pao Daily News, 2008

Touring/Extended performances

May 2015
Hong Kong Arts Centre

Sep 2010
Shanghai Expo 2010, Shanghai Grand Theatre, Shanghai

Jul-Aug 2010
60th anniversary of the British Council Hong Kong celebration program, Closing performance at the New Vision Arts Festival, Hong Kong City Hall

Nov 2008
Hong Kong City Hall


Bonni Chan

Bonni Chan, Sean Curran (2008, 2010) | Fayer Deng (2015)

Liam Hurley (UK) (2008, 2010) |
Paul Poon*(2015)

Performers (2008)
Lee Chun-chow, Phoebe Chan,
Shirley Tsoi, Morgan Gadd, Benny Yu, Iris Sun, Sean Curran

Performers (2010)
Sean Curran, Anson Lam,
Claire Nicholls, Sheung Ming-fai, Shirley Tsoi, Ivy Tsui, Benny Yu,
Bonni Chan

Performers (2015)
Cheng Yee-chai, Sean Curran,
Rico Wu, Larry Ng, Kenneth Sze,
Chow Wing-yan, Hofan Chau,
Bonni Chan

Lighting Designer
Lau Ming-hang

Costume Designer
Cheng Man-wing

Video Artist
Burst TV (UK) (2008, 2010) |
Adrian Yeung (2015)

Music and Sound Designer
New Oprea Hero (UK) (2008) |
Vincent Pang (2015)

Stage Designer
Charfi Hung (2008, 2010) |
Terrenz Chang (2015)

Assistant to Director
Hofan Chau (2015)


*with the kind permission of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts

A creation from the transcript of The Will to Build.


bring home yours:

The Trove

“Verbatim Theatre” emerged within the UK as an innovative and socially-aware theatrical form which utilizes original interview or spoken material in the creation of new performance work, often with the intention of making a specific social or political statement. “Verbatim Theatre” is a form of “Documentary Theatre” which uses research material and data to generate the script. This type of approach seeks to be very faithful to the source interview material, prompting interesting questions for the creative process. Do the performers create their own characters from the interview material as they would if they were acting in a conventionally scripted piece? Or do they attempt to mimic the speaker, even right down to speech patterns and pauses for breath, in an attempt at a kind of absolute “truthfulness”. The results of such an approach can be very powerful, if done well.

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