Last week, for the first time in about eight months, I saw a live play. It was quite a thrill to attend theatre again. Just the act of gathering at a public venue, joined by a crowd ( socially distanced with seats strategically blocked for separation ), the anticipation as the lights dim, then seeing actors on stage, was something I didn’t realise I missed so much. But it also reminded me of one of life’s minor dilemmas I had forgotten about – whether to eat a meal before or after a performance. The usual start time for performing art events in the city is 7.30pm or 8pm, which is precisely when most people in Hong Kong have dinner. It’s always awkward to have to choose one function over another. Basically, if you’re seeing a show then you can’t have a proper dinner. If you happened to eat lunch late, it’s unlikely you’ll want another meal at 6.30pm. I realise, for some parts of the world that’s a common dinner time, but for many Hongkongers that’s usually when they leave the office. Waiting to dine until after a performance is not ideal. Dieters don’t want to eat late because they say it’s easier to gain weight or they can’t sleep on a full stomach, and waiting until post-performance tends to make some folks hangry. If it’s a really long show, you can be certain people’s attention will also be distracted from the stage as time goes on. My issue is that my stomach just can’t keep quiet – it’s quite embarrassing when your gut starts making growling noises, as if some creature inside is threatening an Alien -type escape. Strike, virus, losses, no leader – Paris Opera’ future in doubt The drawback to eating after a show is that there are fewer dining options. Numerous restaurants have already taken their last orders. Chances are, your options are fast food or cha chaan teng. Stir-fried beef noodles is fine for a weekday lunch, but a greasy plate of rice noodles feels anticlimactic and depressing on a Saturday night out with your significant other. The problem is that you can choose only one main social event each evening, and dining is the activity with time flexibility. You can eat lunch in under 10 minutes – as I sometimes do on my own – but if you’re interested in something fancier, there are chefs who will put together menus that last three hours or more. I think a nice meal accompanying a well-produced stage play should fall somewhere between those extremes. I don’t need exquisite fine dining, but it would be nice to enjoy a civilised meal and not hurry through it as if you have a train to catch. Perhaps the social paradigm can be reframed. Think about how movies are scheduled in the evening – if a concert is less than two hours long, it can start at 9pm. That way, audience members can enjoy a proper dinner with appetiser and main course at 7pm. A weekend theatrical production could start at 6pm, which would let ticket-holders make a 9pm dinner reservation. Of course, that doesn’t work if the company is also doing an afternoon matinee. I wonder if actors and musicians would appreciate earlier start times, too. It’s my understanding that performing artists don’t eat before shows to avoid being sluggish. I’m sure many would appreciate a more regular routine than frequent 11pm post-show meals. Maybe this could be a light-bulb moment for some innovative restaurant group – reinvent the dinner theatre concept, with better food and more engaging performances than bad Agatha Christie.