Performing arts in Hong Kong

From the original Evita to an Irish Swan Lake, the best Hong Kong theatre of 2018 was from overseas

  • Theatre companies from Ireland, Oklahoma, Slovenia and the UK put on the top stage shows in the city
  • Angel’s Bone, a commentary on human trafficking, was the best of the performances
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 3:03pm

This year’s most memorable stage productions came mostly from overseas, with Angel’s Bone, a contemporary opera presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department as part of its New Vision Arts Festival, topping the list.

Composed by Shanghai-born and New York-based Du Yun, the Pulitzer-winning piece is a hard-hitting commentary on human trafficking and a gritty portrayal of human vulnerability and greed. A cash-strapped couple find a pair of angels that have fallen into their backyard, but instead of helping them they turn the heavenly creatures into tools to make money.

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Some scenes were brutal and made for uncomfortable viewing, but given the subject matter, such honest treatment makes the work more powerful. Du’s haunting music matches the dark tone of the piece to a tee, while the singing from the cast was phenomenal.

The multimedia elements, such as the video projection in the background, added to the dramatic tension of the performance.

Not as visual but just as powerful is Irish choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/ Loch na hEala, which was also part of the New Vision festival. Based loosely on the ancient Irish myth of the four children of King Lir, who were turned into swans (for 900 years) by their jealous stepmother, this dance/theatre piece weaves its narrative between ancient and modern, joy and sadness, and explores the increasingly blurred line between good and evil.

Behind the scenes of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and its unique stage set

If there was one work that really challenged the audience this year, it would be Pursuit of Happiness, a joint production by Nature Theatre of Oklahoma (in the United States) and EnKnapGroup (from Slovenia) presented by the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Much of the beginning of the two-hour performance didn’t make a lot of sense; but after sticking with it, the reward was tremendous; Pursuit of Happiness is one of the cleverest – and funniest – shows I have seen. Particularly outstanding was Bence Mezei, whose role and performance turned traditional theatre and storytelling on its head.

The much-anticipated Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a National Theatre of Great Britain production and Arts Festival programme, wowed the audience with its beautiful and innovative set, though some found the stage performance not as engaging as the book the show is based on.

Lunchbox Productions this year presented the “original” (1978) version of Evita, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most popular and long-lasting musicals. The choreography definitely looks dated but the music and numbers are just as good and memorable as they were 40 years ago.

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Emma Kingston was vocally assured in the title role but was eclipsed by Che, the narrator, played by Jonathan Roxmouth, who is a top-notch singer and actor.