Memoirs of European life across Asia, from the mid-18th century onwards, detail the games, entertainments, sports and pastimes that kept chronic boredom at bay and helped maintain physical and mental health. Recollections of sports predominate but any town with a sizeable European population inevitably developed an amateur dramatic society. From Calcutta to Canton, “am-dram” helped keep the exile’s spare-time blues at bay, and Hong Kong was no exception. In larger population centres – particularly in India – where a sufficiently sized European population justified it, tailor-made performance halls were built, often doubling up as a “school of arts”. A well-constructed stage could accommodate a band or an orchestra, the seating area could be cleared for dances on a properly sprung, purpose-laid floor, a small library/reading room – and a subcommittee to oversee it – evolved, and kitchens provided tea and refreshments, or a buffet supper. In remote locations where spare time hung heavily, amateur dramatics came to the rescue. For some, this enabled them to inhabit – at least for a few hours – a different persona to that which everyday life had mandated. Inevitably, petty thespian rivalries spilled over into other areas of colonial life. In the usual small-town way, personal feuds, and the inevitable broader community side-taking, would periodically erupt over just why Mrs So-and-So got the lead in The Pirates of Penzance that year, when everyone knew that Mrs Whatsit had the better voice, stage presence and gravitas for the role. And especially after the pushy old trout had somehow managed to bag the starring role in The Mikado the year before. Locally, the Hong Kong Singers have been performing since the early 1930s. Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and versions of popular Broadway musicals have been performed annually since the early 60s, often at City Hall, in Central. Long defunct, the Garrison Players were popular, and due to British military postings, their performers rotated through the colony every couple of years, allowing fresh talent to flourish. Love, sex and making babies: how POWs got passionate in Asia’s wartime prison camps Another circumstance in which days had to be filled, spirits lifted, was in Japanese prisoner-of-war and civilian internee camps across Asia during the Pacific war. Musical scores could sometimes be procured from “outside the wire”, or else written up from memory. On occasion, this particular feat was achieved by one or several persons humming the remembered tune, while another who could read music noted down the score on hand-ruled sheets. Portable instruments, such as violins, accordions and guitars, came into prison camps with internees. Flutes and other wind instruments could be made on site from bamboo or other materials, and in the military camps, at least one bugle, however tinny-sounding, could be found somewhere. In some places, an entire military brass band, with a full complement of instruments – occasionally pipes and drums as well – were imprisoned, with impressive results for both performances and morale. Norah Chambers, a British internee in South Sumatra, who took part in a choral group that would later be memorialised in the Australian film Paradise Road (1997), recalled, “In spite of all the smells and muck and goodness knows what, we literally forgot where we were.” Much the same could be said of those treading the boards in remote, peacetime outstations from Burma to Borneo, where – for a short time – they were able to inhabit someone else’s skin.