When the audience erupted into thunderous applause at the end of an excerpt from Princess Changping at Stanley Community Hall yesterday, it was less about the 1957 Cantonese opera's enduring popularity and more about the two leads on stage - who were only five years old.
Szeto Yik-lam took the title role, while Chan Long-hei was Prince Consort Zhou Shixian - with the couple committing suicide for their country on their wedding night in the climatic finale.
Their appearance was part of the Southern District Cantonese Operatic Art Performance Parade organised by Southern District Council to mark the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong's reunification with the mainland.
The free programme, which runs until the end of October, features amateur casts, of various nationalities, and aims to promote the art form across society.
At Stanley yesterday, Tong Tik-sang's opera had the audience smiling despite the tragic plot as the little royals faced their deaths.
After heading on stage, Yik-lam, who has been learning Cantonese opera for one year, said: 'I think the make-up makes me pretty. I am not nervous, I am happy. And it's not tiring to learn [Cantonese opera].'
But she was frank about her ignorance of the plot and did not realise she had faced a wedding and a suicide on stage.
Likewise, Long-hei, who also performed with his seven-year-old sister in another excerpt, Peony Pavilion - the Interrupted Dream, did not know much about the role he was playing but said he was happy to be involved.
Augustine Yeung Chi-kuk, the show's producer, said children mainly performed through gestures and were too young to act their roles with real emotion.
'We need to fix the gestures in an early stage ... stick to them and practise with them,' Yeung said. Moreover, he said it was important to make the youngsters focus, which required a lot of patience.
Ho Chun, 86, said she enjoyed the performance a lot. 'They are so funny. They are not shy and the performance was lively,' she said.