Acting no laughing matter go top duo

2000.11.19 | SCMP

Local comic sensations Dayo Wong Chi-wah and DoDo Cheng Yu-ling are no strangers to success. They have brought their highly successful TV series, War of the Genders, to the stage at the Jockey Club Auditorium, Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The play, which opened on November 1, will run until December 10.

A screen and television veteran, Cheng is renowned for her punctuality and no-nonsense attitude towards her work. She is articulate and her sense of humour is appreciated by her colleagues. On the other hand, Wong is a multi-talented showbiz personality. He also writes screenplays, and is arguably the only stand-up comedian in Hong Kong whose performances have earned him unparalleled fame in the industry. Throw in a bunch of other fine actors and actresses, and the pair’s latest production is guaranteed to be a box-office hit.

Are you satisfied with the response to your play, War of the Genders?

Wong: Yes, the press and the audience have been great. In fact, it is very easy to tell whether your play is success or failure from the atmosphere in the theatre. Sometimes when viewers don’t enjoy your show, they will just leave their seats as soon as it is finished. But in our case I can actually feel they appreciate our performance. We’ve been seeking their opinions from the beginning.

Cheng: The response so far has been very positive. Actually, they are a number of senses in our play in which the audience can play their part, and I’m very to see that they are really enjoying it.

Are there any new elements in this stage version?

Wong: In the TV series some characters failed to realise their full potential because of the limited air time of each episode. But now everyone is basically at full stretch. For example, Dodo sings for the first time before a live audience, and she does a great job.

Cheng: Yes, I agree. We can do something which we didn’t have the chance to do on TV.

When did you two first come up with the idea?

Cheng: It was about six months ago. At the time we had been shooting the War of Genders for three months. It took us almost five months to finish the 100 episodes of the series. Therefore, we were basically doing the TV series, while planning for the stage version.

Wong: When I proposed the idea to Dodo, I wasn’t motivated by money. I simply believed the TV series could be made into a good stage production.

What difficulties did you face when you embarked on your new venture?

Wong: There were a lot more than we anticipated, It eventually took us about four months to put the thing together. Since we wanted to cater to those who had seen the TV series as well as “outsiders”, it entailed a lot of effort from all those concerned.

Cheng: It was easier for me because I am an actress and all I have to do is to act. The screen-play was very good and we all had a good time at our rehearsals. As for me, I didn’t find anything particularly difficult.

What made War of the Genders so different from other sitcoms?

Wong: We had a team of fine actors and actresses and it was a combination of right things for the right people that made the show so successful.

Do you consider the TV series a milestone in your career?

Wong: Nobody would have expected such a smash-hit on TV this year, although we were a bit worried about the ratings before it was broadcast. I could compare the experience to the first time I introduced stand-up comedy to local audiences.

Cheng: The series was special to me because I made a lot of new friends and got a lot of satisfaction from it. As to whether it was a milestone for me, I think I’ll let the viewers judge.

Did War of the Genders set a new trend for future sitcoms?

Cheng: Yes. In the past, producers normally wouldn’t stop making new episodes as long as the series remained popular.

Is there any difference between play the same character on TV and before a live audience?

Wong: Basically you’ll have to focus on the character itself in both situations. The stage version contains some new scenes and as a result you’ll have to act according to the circumstances.

Cheng: TV can capture close-ups or long shots, but on stage it takes a lot more body language because a play is viewed form a distance. You have to pay attention all the time even though you might not have dialogue in a particular scene because the audience is still watching you.

Both of you have acted in movies, TV dramas, and now on stage. Which do you prefer?

Wong: I want to do them all because you can always find something enjoyable in each one. But I would say acting on TV was a bit more relaxing because if you could always try to pull yourself together in the next one. In movies, you don’t get much time before the cameras and on stage, there are a lot of rehearsals once you go before the audience, you can’t afford to make mistakes.

Cheng: I have never been involved in plays before and I find it very challenging. However, on the other hand, I also find myself under tremendous pressure because people have expectations, so I can’t afford to fail. But so far I feel pretty good about acting on stage, and it is a little too early to decide what I like best.

What is your advice for young people who aspire to a career on the stage?

Wong: Just go for it and give it your best shot. Life is about seizing every opportunity. Don’t have any regrets later.

Cheng: Honestly, I have no idea about the principles and values of teenagers these days. But if you really want to become an actor, then all you have to do is to try your best and improve your confidence.

Name:Dayo Wong Chi-wahDodo Cheng Yu-ling
Birthday:September 5September 9
Birthplace:Hong KongHong Kong