Simon Lo Man-kit is a familiar face to many Hong Kong television viewers. He used to be one of the hosts of Flash Fax, TVB’s highly popular children’s program. He currently appears in several local drama shows.
But just recently, he has taken on a rather odd job, that of an acting instructor for those performing as ghosts in Ocean Park’s “haunted house” treat for Halloween.
“I love to try out different things,” says Lo.
For him, actors playing the role of ghosts have to be more skillful than those on the theatrical stage because they have to be more spontaneous and they have to interact with the audience.
Besides, it’s single-take acting; one can only scare people once or not at all.
Lo says it’s absolutely necessary for performers to internalize their character, or in this case, to believe that they’re real ghosts, to be able to convince the audience.
Lo refers to Fredric Mao Chun-fai, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre’s director laureate whose favorite dictum is “to act is to do”.
“I ask my ‘ghost students’ to get into their character by understanding the personality, background, experiences and the inner world. Then they should be able to act their roles naturally,” says Lo.
Also, professional “ghosts” have to be careful not to do their act on “haunted house” guests who can’t stand the pressure. “Clearly one shouldn’t pursue an old lady or an old man,” he notes.
Still, performers act too well that visitors sometimes overreact and hurt them by accident.
“There are guidelines for performers and a safety distance is set between the performers and visitors. CCTV cameras stay in operation all over the place and so performers can send out signals to the security guard if they need assistance.”
Lo says there are two vital qualities that performers must possess: insanity and serenity. “Performers ought to be insanely unreserved in acting out the character. But they have to be serene when receiving criticisms.”
Lo once did a music video for a children’ song, his first and only music video.
“I was told that children were writing in, complaining about my performance. I bet quite a number of complaints came in as the producer didn’t let me sing another song again,” he recalls good-humoredly. “It’s alright as I like trying out new things.”
In 1991, Lo, aged 19, studied in the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, then worked as a part-time clown at Ocean Park, before joining TVB the following year.
Lo reveals that he loves acting in theatrical presentations more than appearing on television. “I worked in a TV station because I needed to pay for my tuition.”
Lo is active on the drama stage. He won the best supporting actor (tragedy/drama) at the Hong Kong Drama Awards in 2008 for his performance in Popcorn Killer, produced by local theatrical group The Nonsensemakers.
In 2010 he worked in the musical Passage Beyond, where he met his wife Pinky Leung Ka-man, who was also a performer in the show. They got married in 2013 and now have a son.
What lies in the future? Lo says no matter what he does next, he intends to give it his all as every moment of the present is precious.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 13.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
– Contact us at [email protected]