History in stages through the eyes of students

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am

Secondary students this week used dance, mime and drama to bring two very different portrayals of Hong Kong's history to the stage.

In Quarry Bay, more than 90 students from five English Schools Foundation schools braved blustery and rainy conditions for two consecutive nights to take a damp but enthusiastic audience through 1,000 years of history in 75 minutes.

The four-part play, developed in conjunction with Australian theatre ensemble Zen Zen Zo, touched on times of destitution, destruction, disease and death in the city's development - plus a few lighter moments.

Hugo Montagne, 17, a Year 13 student from South Island School, said taking part had pushed him to his limits.

'Every part of the process was very challenging. Any part that was not really challenging us, the director didn't like it.

'In the dress rehearsal the night before the performance, something went really wrong and I dislocated my shoulder. I had to perform both nights anyway.'

But he said the experience had not put him off the stage. 'We'd all do it again in a shot.'

Lynn Bradley, artistic director of the theatre group and one of the play's four directors, said the main concepts for the play had been worked out during a one-week camp in the rainforest near Brisbane last year, then finalised over an intensive week of rehearsals running up to the performance.

'We said to them: 'You need to be able to perform in a typhoon',' she said. 'So they were able to cope with the rain no problem.'

Safe from the weather in the Jockey Club Auditorium at Polytechnic University, meanwhile, more than 130 students and teachers staged a musical to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Pooi To Middle School. Pooi To 120 - A Musical Journey ran for two nights.

The students of the girls' school used song and dance to tell an audience of 1,000 the story of how school founders and principals had overcome challenges over the years.

'It was such an honour to me to play a part in this musical,' said Form Four student Cecilia Tsang.

The six-scene play, choreographed by the Hong Kong 3 Arts Musical Institute, started with its establishment in Guangzhou in 1888, going on to chart how the school survived the second world war, eventually opening a branch in Hong Kong that would become today's Pooi To.

Native English-speaking teacher John Hone, who was involved in the production, said the reason the Chinese-medium school staged the play in English was to encourage students develop their English skills.