Neil Harris Explores Fo Tan's Possibilities in His Play, "The King of Fo Tan"
Hong Kong-based drama teacher and playwright Neil Harris debuts his new play “The King of Fo Tan” at the Fringe Underground on June 2.
What is “The King of Fo Tan” about? It’s a comedy set in the hills just above Fo Tan. There’s a very nice housing estate up on the mountain overlooking the factories. That generates the idea of the play, which is: What if we took a whole block and turned it into loft-living, New York-style apartments? What would happen? What would happen to the people doing it, what would happen to the people currently using those spaces in different ways?
What are those spaces currently used for? So many things. It’s fascinating. Some are still functioning businesses and small factories, but those that aren’t are now artist spaces, little galleries, little sculpture workshops. I even understand that if there’s nowhere for your bones and your urns, you can use a workshop as a unit to store your [remains]. All of these people have been filling these spaces with interesting things, and that’s what we ought to be celebrating.
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Do you think you’re making a political statement in your work? Not really. I’m not politicized in that respect. I don’t feel that I have much to say about Hong Kong housing. It just happens to be the framework to explore a story I’m interested in: the factory units and how they’re recycled. It’s not so much the building themselves, it’s the uses of them. That’s what I find exciting. If there is a message, it’s that it would be excellent if we could take old buildings and use them for creative things, not knock them down. The question the play poses is: What if all of that was challenged? What would be the benefit, what would be the loss?
Have you always been involved with the Fringe Club? How did you start out? Yes, I have. This will be the eighth play I’ve staged here. It was literally 24 years ago I started hanging out here. I was a young guy. It was before the Handover, a very exciting time. We had a little group of people who were all interested in the theater, all interested in performance, all interested in writing. We just got together and started creating stuff. And the Fringe is very welcoming. They have a very open policy, so for somebody like me who wants to create original things, that’s such a gift. If they were more commercial, I would really have to convince them that it would be profitable.
What else should people know about the play? So we’re doing it for charity, for a homeless charity group called Impact HK. They go to Sham Shui Po and feed the homeless on a fairly regular basis. The profits will go to that.