Monday, February 18, 2013

The amazing Song Ru Hui

Song Ru Hui.  Photo: Richard Davenport
I've known, and worked with Song Ru Hui since 2009, when we started the development process for Re-Orientations in Shanghai.  That makes this period of rehearsal for Consumed the fifth block of work we've done together in four years.  It's a fascinating and evolving creative collaboration, made all the more intriguing and challenging by the fact that we don't speak the same language.

Consumed was Hui's idea.  She'd been excited and stimulated by the devising process around Re-Orientations, and wanted the opportunity to develop a new piece with a smaller cast, working on similar lines but with more depth for specific characters.  We've ended up with a three-hander: Hui and two men.

The workshop process in Shanghai last year was actually quite complex for Hui.  Her training and method as a performer is very Stanislavskian - she needs to know everything about a character before she can play her.  That's almost diametrically opposed to my devising approach - where we create scenes, events, happenings - and slowly hang them together until a storyline emerges.  For me, the character is the person who does those things.  The psychology emerges from the events, rather than being there to motivate them.

But the dramaturgical period since the workshop has allowed a strong story to emerge, with three clear characters, each of whom has a very carefully worked out journey.  Our rehearsals over the last few weeks have been about charting that, in a way far closer to Hui's accustomed approach.  And the results are very remarkable.

Serge Soric and I were discussing her acting on the train after rehearsals last week.  It's not just a Stanislavskian, absorbed performance.  At the risk of sounding pretentious, it's a transcendent happening.  I've no idea whether Hui is a religious or spiritual person in any way - although I do feel that she emerges from a heritage of Buddhist culture which empowers the internal life.  It seems to me that acting, for her, is not a craft or a discipline so much as a spiritual practice, a way of being.  More than any actor I have ever worked with, she transforms on stage, becoming more than herself. She takes her art to another dimension, and so transforms the space around her. 

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