A theatre group that produces an annual drama on the theme of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown risks a loss of more than HK$100,000 after including the Occupy Central movement in this year's play.
Stage64, which in the past has played to near-full houses, says only 40 per cent of its seats have been booked just days before show time.
The latest play, Beliefs Soar (Rerun), has former Tiananmen activist Chai Ling as its main theme, but also touches on the civil disobedience movement founded to stage a mass pro-democracy protest in Central in July next year.
Last year's drama played to an almost full house and teachers would take students to the show, scriptwriter Wei Siu-lik said. "But teachers told me this year they preferred plays based solely on the June 4 incident."
The play costs about HK$200,000 to produce and, despite limited subsidies from the Professional Teachers' Union and Federation of Students, can run into deficit even with a full house. In a last-ditch effort to fill the seats, it gave out free tickets at the Book Fair to anyone who bought a copy of the book Occupy Central by movement founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting.
"We gave up money in return for audiences, just hoping the messages of our play would be heard," producer Cheung Ka-wan said. He emphasised that the play did not call for the audience to support Occupy Central.
"We just hope they would think deeply on the meaning of universal suffrage and how much they are willing to sacrifice for that," he said.
The timing of the play may also have something to do with the poor response, as Hongkongers are most politically aware in early June, when the memorial to the Tiananmen crackdown takes place, and in early July when the city marks the British handover of Hong Kong to China.
Last year's almost full-house show was staged in June.
"Though the timing was not at its best this year, we still hope more youngsters will come and get to know the history", said another scriptwriter and producer Lit Ming-wai.
She said a retired school principal made a donation to sponsor students to see the show.
Beliefs Soar (Rerun) will be on from today to Sunday at Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre. Tickets cost HK$160 to HK$210 and are available at Urbtix.