“I claim Edwin Booth never saw the day when he could give as good a performance as a trained seal. Seals are intelligent and honest. They don’t put up any bluffs about the Art of Acting. They admit they are just hams earning their daily fish.”
Jamie in Eugene O’Neill’s 
Long Day’s Journey into Night 

It is well known in Hong Kong’s theatre history that after Vicki Ooi guest directed Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey into Night for the Hong Kong Repertory theatre in 1978, she and a group of dedicated drama enthusiasts decided to develop their collective passion to further foreign plays in translation by founding first Seals Theatre Company and then Seals Players Foundation. Many of its founding members were graduates of the University of Hong Kong and together, they have left an indelible mark in Hong Kong as one of the very first contributors to local theatre in Cantonese.

From its inception until the early 1990s, Seals produced a total of 56 productions with seven productions re-running at least once. The majority of its productions were plays in translation and ranged from English to Japanese and German to comedies, tragedies, musicals, children’s theatre and Off Broadway shows. In addition, there were plays adapted from Bai Xianyong and Eileen Chang’s fiction. In all those years there was also one production in English, Harold Pinter’sOld Times. The venues that plays were staged in varied in sizes and included theatres at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, City Hall and Tsuen Wan Town Hall and the Hong Kong Arts Centre.

Productions were sponsored by numerous individuals who shared Seals’ love of theatre and were also made possible by the Hong Kong Arts Festival, the Goethe Institute and Philip Morris to name a few.

Aside from Vicki Ooi as the Artistic Director who directed over 20 productions, other directors included Law Kar, who subsequently took over from Vicki and John Chung who each directed over 10 plays. Directors from within Seals and outside likewise included James Mark, Wong Hoi Shan, Selina Kan, Bernadette Tsui, Chan Kam Kuen, Linda Lam, Wong Ho Yee, Ling Ka Kan and Eddie Shee.

Translators that gave their time and effort to getting the plays into Cantonese included Jane Lai, Law Kar as the two most prominent, and then Selina Kan and Dominic Cheung. From time to time, other translators who supported Seals’ work were Pearl Chow, Terence Chang, Bernadette Tsui, Chan Kwai Yung, Chan Kan Kuen and Chan Suk Wah.

On the thespian front, Seals had equally enthusiastic actors and actresses: John Chung, Selina Kan, Chu Shui Tong, Kam Kong, Raphael Che, Lynn Yau, Wong Hoi Shan. Anthony Liu, Dominic Cheung, Eddie Shee, Wong Ho Yee, Leung Shiu Cheung, Wong Ka Yee, Yip Kwai Lan etc. Some of those who began their stage life with Seals are today professionals in the field – Lee Chun Chow, Ben Ting, Ng Kar Hei, Patrick Pak, Lau Shek Yin, Kung Kwok Keung, Simon Wu, Tang Shu Wing, Tse Kwan Ho to name a few. Those who have left the theatre circle includes Cheng Yan Chee, Stephen Chan, Louie Castro and Lee Mak. In 1986-87, the local band Beyond was the guest performer in the original production of Anita.

Seals was likewise very fortunate to have had a host of backstage heroes and heroines.

Producers included Magdalen Yum, Linda Lam, Selina Kan, Wong Ho Yee, Vivian Chow, James Mark, Wong Hoi Shan etc. Designers were of the ilk of Andrew Ritchie, Tso Tim Wo, Lo King Man, Danny Yung and Yu Chun Keung. Regular appearances were made by Edmond Wong, Lau Wai Leung. Lyrics were often penned by Young Lap Ming, Selina Kan, Eric Pun, Ricardo Rodrigues. Choreographers included Daryl Ries and Joe Hung. Frequent lighting designers include Andrew Ritchie, Johnson Ng. Make-up designers included Betty Chan, Chan Ming Long and Yu Siu Yin. Technical Directors were Johnson Ng, James Mark and Law Hung.