To be young is to be a rebel, says writer Dung Kai-cheung.
Dung's take on the youthful rebel spirit will be seen in a multimedia show based on his novel P. E. Period, which will be performed tonight and tomorrow at the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
The Nana-like, coming-of-age tale is about two teenage girls - a rock musician and a university student who aspires to be a writer - and their struggle between dreams and reality. The musical is presented by the Class 7A Drama Group.
The 40-year-old author said he wrote the novel around 2000 when he was trying to strike a balance between his responsibilities as a family man and his career as a writer.
'Then I had some struggles and I started asking myself questions: Why am I writing? Should I continue? Do I have other options?'
Since it's hard make a living in Hong Kong writing literary novels, Dung worked as a freelance writing instructor in secondary schools.
'I was very busy, and I never had enough time for writing, especially writing novels,' Dung recalled.
'I was angry and disappointed. My feelings were so strong that when I'd start putting words down on paper, I churned out as much as 10,000 words a day.
'Now, when I look at P.E. Period, I feel there are parts I could have done better. But then that's the way I wrote the book, and it reflects how strongly I felt about certain things at the time.'
P. E. Period marks a shift in the writer's focus, from the nostalgia of his early coming-of-age books to a portrait of youth struggles.
'Growing up can be very difficult. As young people, our survival skills are weak. We don't grow up as animals do in the wild. Humans are complicated animals.'
At that time, Dung was in close touch with young adults - students at senior secondary and university levels.
This is an interesting time in their lives, the writer said. Because they are nearing the end of their youth, they need to learn to balance dreams with reality. They also know that reaching adulthood could mean having to compromise and conform to social conventions.
'This is a very interesting period, where one is either in transition or at a crossroads. It's a time when you are still relatively free and have fantasies and dreams,' Dung said.
'Today's young people seem to have fewer dreams.'
The writer also feels that today's youth lack a sense of adventure when it comes to choosing careers.
'I'm bored with hearing 10As students talk about their ambitions to be a doctor. I seldom hear them say they want to be an actor.'
But Dung has come across young people, usually in his writing classes, who 'dare to follow their dreams'.
He said these students inspired some of the characters in P.E. Period.
But Dung is realistic. While encouraging young people to pursue their dreams, he also warns them about the dangers of attempting something difficult, and the disappointment that comes with failure.
At the same time, he tells young people not to feel obliged to follow a path just because it feels right.
'The most valuable thing about being young is that you have every right to be dissatisfied with reality.'
P. E. Period will be staged at the Shouson Theatre at 7.45pm today and tomorrow, with a Saturday matinee at 2.45pm. Tickets are HK$100 and HK$80 for students. Call 2734 9009 for reservations.