A Hong Kong Theatre Company
Rooftop Productions was founded in 2014 in Hong Kong by Ivor Houlker (from the UK) and Michelle Li (a local Hongkonger). We make original theatre works which are influenced by pressing social and cultural issues in Hong Kong at the moment. Our shows are devised; starting without a script, and working intertextually with things like interview transcripts, fragments of historical text or plays, philosophy or original material generated with our performers. We work in a multidisciplinary way, trying to integrate all the different aspects of theatre in our creative process, from live music to live video and even live interaction with mobile apps.
Actor Training and Theatre in Education
Apart from our professional shows, we also work with young actors and schools to promote contemporary training methodologies, and an understanding of modern theatre practice that goes beyond more traditional ways of teaching 'drama'. This means creating specialised courses that put students in contact with theatre artists who are well known in their fields, allowing them to gain first hand practical skills as well as a depth of theoretical knowledge to back it up. Our international background and education means that we're able to work in both English and Cantonese speaking environments, bringing specialist knowledge to both.
Pushing Technology Forward
We try to push the boundaries of live performance by integrating technology in innovative ways, while still retaining the liveness that makes theatre unique. The integration of technology into our scenography often wins awards, and we are known for using live video feeds and projection in our work, even using live green screen in Testimony. We're also known for being the first theatre company in Hong Kong to write our own interactive apps for use in shows.
Using Apps in Theatre
In 2015, The Beautiful Ones was our first official show as a company, which used an app to take the audience on a guided audio walk through the local area before returning to the theatre for the second half. In 2017 we went on to make another app-based show, Lost Shoreline, expanding massively on the scale and level of interactivity in the app, using GPS and local phone numbers to give the audience the freedom to really explore the area. Thanks to the success and popularity of the app, we were invited to host talks and seminars about the creative experience. We were also invited to Tokyo for an exchange programme organised by the Goethe institute Japan
South Asians make up the largest ethnic minority group in Hong Kong. Testimony explores South Asian history and identity in Hong Kong.
The Furies Variations an intertextual approach to consider the the current problem of justice.
Not The Maids explores the roles and identities of foreign domestic workers (sometimes called 'helpers') in Hong Kong.
A site-specific audio walk performance with an app in Yau Ma Tei. Audience members walk around the area using GPS to find actors.
Song theatre with new and old stories of migration. In a land flowing with milk and honey, are you satisfied?
From two pairs of mice, a utopian experiment devolves into a hell… Site-specific theatre and an audio guide combine for a new and innovative theatre form.
- Testimony (Performance of the Year) IATC (HK) Critics Awards, 2019
- Testimony (Best Scenography) IATC (HK) Critics Awards, 2019
- Testimony (Best Scenography) Hong Kong Theatre Libre, 2019
- The Furies Variations (Best Scenography) Hong Kong Theatre Libre, 2018
- Milk and Honey (Best Scenography) Hong Kong Theatre Libre, 2016
- The Beautiful Ones (Best Scenography) Hong Kong Theatre Libre, 2015
About Rooftop Productions
We've been making work in Hong Kong as Rooftop Productions since 2014, but we actually started working together in London when we were both studying at Goldsmiths on the Performance Making MA. We went on to do our own work outside Goldsmiths, including a short residency in Palermo, Sicily, and Greece before coming back to Hong Kong to develop our practice here.
Our Theatre Work in Hong Kong
Our first collaboration was with We Draman Group at their Black Box theatre in San Po Kong, where we created a devised show with their students, and later performed our first professional show, The Beautiful Ones. We've kept an emphasis on the devising approach throughout our work, but it wasn't until Not The Maids in 2017 (as part of Pants Theatre Production's documentary theatre festival) that we began using interview texts in our work, connecting our work more directly with social issues. This carried over to our 2019 show, Testimony, along with our belief in aiming to employ actors from diverse backgrounds in our shows.
Founders & Artistic Directors
Ivor Houlker is a multidisciplinary performer and theatre artist, who works internationally as an actor, musician and director.
Founder and Co-Artistic Director
Michelle Li Yuen Jing holds an MA in Performance Making from Goldsmiths, University of London, and BA in English Studies from the University of Hong Kong.
Founder and Co-Artistic Director
Although it's documentary-based, the stories that the creative have chosen are very dramatic, combined with their dynamic use of multimedia, they have created an enjoyable and impressive show which explores serious topics in depth. The creative team is full of humour while reflecting on the racial discrimination issues. Among them, Kashif, an actor of Pakistani origin, is especially eye-catching and full of energy.
This performance is very playful and crazy. I always say that if you want to know more about cutting edge productions in Hong Kong fringe theatre, Rooftop Productions is my first choice. They always provide the audience with a new way of seeing in all their productions, surprising you. The whole performance is rich and full of different elements; a feast for the eyes.
This performance impressed me a lot. They have successfully chosen their entry point for discussion. This is very important: the creative team has chosen the right approach to resonate with their audience.
The research of the creative team and the directors is presented successfully on stage, letting the audience hear the actors sharing their real-life stories, Tagalog, and their research materials, well-presented by the actors. Not The Maids has opened up an arts space which is not easily handled by traditional theatre.
The creative team want the audience to ask themselves whether we have unintentionally exploited people around us; their approach is very smart. What touched me most was the personal stories between the performers and their own helpers at home. They used their own stories to explore the question, giving power to the reflection.
The choice of props is wise; the symbolic meaning of the objects they have chosen are exact and humorous, and very closely connected to the topic. I appreciate the whole style of the performance, raw and full of energy, it feels very refreshing and fluent.
Tonight, 'The Beautiful Ones', the debut work of Rooftop Productions, completed a rirual for us to reflect on the relationships between different individuals.
Indeed, the power of the performance will lead you to an unlimited space of thought.
If Rooftop Productions continue to develop their work in this style, within 10 years time, they will become one of the most important groups who create local high-quality fringe theatre performances.
As a whole, the show was clever and thought provoking, the performance well rehearsed, slick and very engaging – I wish I had the chance to go again and take the tour in a different group for a different view point.