Girls get men's talk perfectly

YEARS of partnership can create a prize-winning team indeed - Mabel Wong and Connie Yam of St Mary's Canossian College proved just that by winning the Dramatic Duologue (senior) section at the annual Speech Contest of the Hong Kong Joint School Debating Society.

The Form Six students edged out 22 other pairs of contestants to score a sparkling 95 marks in their rendering of an act from The Birthday Party , by English playwright Harold Pinter.

The scene features two men, McCann and Stanley, who use dialogue darkened by an underlying menace, a suitable choice for the contest theme of ''Conflict''.

Many of the contestants performed with scripts in their hands, but not Mabel or Connie. Surprisingly, the pair had rehearsed together only the night before the competition.

''Connie and I have been pals in acting since Form Two,'' said Mabel, who also won the festival's Solo Verse Speaking trophy just a day earlier. ''We performed together in every school drama production.'' Adjudicator Anne Lee, a teacher at the British Council, felt the two girls caught the spirit of the troubled characters right from the beginning.

Mabel and Connie were one of the few pairs who had succeeded in building up the tension so that the action of one character gripping the other's arm at the end did not come as too great a surprise, Ms Lee said.

Pinter's play was a challenge, with its many pauses and silences, she added.

''The spare dialogue makes it hard to adequately express menace, so we had to rely a lot on our body language, facial expressions and gestures,'' Mabel said.

''And we actually made some mistakes!'' added Connie.

Joking or not, both girls confessed to being attracted by the $1,000 prize money - which they said they would spend on presents for families and friends.

Coming second in the contest were two boys who were not present when the results were announced, while third place went to Form Six students Hilda Chan and Ruby Wo of Sacred Heart Canossian College who scored 93 points.