The First Readthrough
On Thursday, after two weeks of translating and editing, we finally had our first table read of our original adaptation. It was very exciting to see the whole company assembled.
What a marvelous cast! As I mentioned before, the wonderful Bonni Chan is playing Nora, Sean Curran is Dr Rank, and I’m playing Raymond (originally Torvald). Rounding out the cast are Victor Pang as Neil Kwan (Krogstad) and Luna Shaw as Mrs Lim (Mrs Linde). Luna recently starred in a production of Sarah Kane’s Crave that Bonni directed. Victor is a well-known actor and director in Hong Kong; he was a fantastic Guard in the production of Antigone I directed.
Our costume and lighting designers were out of town but our set designer Terrenz Chang and sound designer Vincent Pang were on hand.
I have to admit I was slightly terrified about the readthrough because it was my first time trying out my Cantonese accent in front of everyone. Though I’ve acted with a Cantonese accent before in Canada, it’s not the same thing as doing it in Hong Kong. My biggest fear is offending someone by doing the Chinese equivalent of an Inspector Clouseau accent. Even though I’m ethnically Chinese, I can’t help but feel a little like Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder.
It was wonderful hearing the Cantonese element of our play. Even though I don’t speak the language, I know the play well enough to follow Bonni, Victor, and Luna doing some brilliant acting.
To me, the most exciting scenes are those where characters switch back and forth depending on their motivation. Like in the following scene in Act Two where Nora uses Cantonese as a tactic when she’s imploring Raymond in her best coquettish fashion:
Raymond: Who was that?
Nora: It was Kristine. She’s helping me with my costume. It will be perfect.
Raymond: I can’t wait to show you off. I won’t disturb you. You probably need to practise the dance or something. Don’t you?
Nora: And you probably have to do some work, am I right?
Raymond: And there’s always work to be done.
Raymond: It depends on what it is.
Raymond: It still depends on what it is.
Raymond: Nora – this isn’t about what we talked about this morning, is it?
Nora: Raymond, please.
Raymond: I can’t believe you’ve got the nerve to even think about asking me again.
Nora: 你聽我講好唔好?呢個男人阿Kwan –
Raymond: 唔得,我講左! Just because you made some stupid little promise to a man like him doesn’t mean for one second that I would even think about –
Nora: I’m thinking about you Raymond. I’m thinking about what he could do to you. He could tell people anything. He could really harm you, your reputation!
Notice that Raymond responds angrily in Chinese with “Enough! I told you already!”. This is one of only two times that I speak Chinese in the play. Both times, it’s motivated by extreme emotional states. In this instance, it’s great anger; at the end of the play, it’s the anguish of having Nora leave him.
Our readthrough timed in at 1:50 without intermission which is very quick-paced for this play which often clocks at over three hours. Tomorrow it’s just Nora/Raymond scenes. Very exciting and nerve-wracking …