Cantonese opera enthusiasts will find a brighter environment and refurbished seating when the Sunbeam Theatre re-opens next month.
Opera lovers feared the famous North Point theatre, founded in 1972, would close for good last month. But a last-minute rescue bid by playwright Li Kui-ming secured a new four-year lease and, instead of shutting its doors permanently, the venue is being given an overhaul.
Actress Cheung Kit-ha, who has performed at the theatre for two decades, was back on stage yesterday to act as a model for a group of young painters. While plastic wrapping covers large parts of the theatre, she did notice a few changes.
'The make-up room on the third floor is a bit smaller. The carpets are new and the walls are brighter,' she said.
General manager Alan Lai Kam-fung said the theatre was replacing manually operated lighting with automatic fixtures. The floor is being polished, and LED lighting will replace fluorescent tubes in poster boxes. Seats are also being replaced.
Ming Chee Sing Chinese Opera will mark the reopening of the theatre by performing a show about Zhuge Liang, a famous strategist and statesman of the Three Kingdoms era. The theatre is already 90 per cent booked for the rest of the year, Lai said.
Five young painters - prize winners in an international children's art competition on the theme of traditional culture organised by a Slovenian gallery last year - had a sneak peek at the renovated theatre yesterday as they were invited to draw their version of the Sunbeam.
Two of the children won first prizes in the competition for their drawings of Cantonese Opera artists.
One of them, Phoebe Chong Tse-ying, noted: 'In contrast to normal cinemas, there are no stair steps adjacent to seats. Instead, the floor gently slopes downwards.'
The 18-year-old used to think traditional opera was difficult to understand, but she was attracted by the glamorous hairstyles and make-up. 'Cantonese opera is very representative of Chinese culture,' she said.
The group's paintings and other winning pieces from the international competition will be exhibited at East Point City in Tseung Kwan O from April 22 to May 6.