Thursday, 23 February 2012

Connie and HKAC.

A busy day. I started off back in Sha Tin College watching a touring Commedia show that had been brought into the School by year 12 students from the neighbouring Li Po Chun College. In return the Sha Tin students gave a quick demonstration of Kabuki techniques and I got some time to chat to both groups about Drama opportunities in the UK. I've really enjoyed these visits and it's been fascinating both to see how the International Baccalaureate is setting sixth formers up for Higher Education and to understand some of the concerns that parents and students have about taking arts degrees at University. I hope we'll be able to come back into these schools as our relationship with Hong Kong develops.

I headed back to the Island to meet Connie Lam, the impressive Chief Executive at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. She, introduced me to her assistant Grace and ushered me into her cluttered office - books, plans, masks, posters and files everywhere. There was nowhere obvious to sit so we perched on the edge of the desk.

'This,' said Connie, holding up a model box 'is our newest venture. A museum celebrating cartoons and comic books. We were been given an old warehouse building which we've converted.'

'Are comics big in Hong Kong?' I asked

'Very big!' said Connie. 'Even as late as the nineteen seventies there were stalls on the street corners where kids could rent a comic book for a penny. They'd sit on stools on the pavement and read it cover to cover. You know Hong Kong has a big history of satire and subversion. When the British first came we parodied their ways through cartoons. Then in the years leading to the Chinese revolution of 1911 many satiric magazines attacking the Qing dynasty were published here. Not quite being England, we could attack the English. Not quite being China, we could attack the Emperor.'

'It's very healthy. All civilisations need critics. Do you think this outsiders role is still important?'

'Maybe. Let me show you the building.'

The site itself is really impressive. A spiral staircase corkscrews round the central atrium leading up to five floors of facilities. There's an arts cinema, a good sized theatre, smaller studio, a cafe and a light airy gallery. The main purpose of the Centre, in contrast to much of what I've seen here, is to engage local communities in the creation, as well as the appreciation of contemporary art. I explained a little about the aims of Drama St Mary's Applied Theatre Programme and we agreed we had much in common. It'd be wonderful to see if any collaborations were possible and I think we'll talk more when I'm back in the UK.

Connie pointed me to the exit, but I explained that I wanted to make a detour to the bookshop, which had caught my eye during our walkabout.

'Buy a lot.' She demanded as we shook hands. 'It keeps us going!'

The day ended in City Hall where I went to see Show Flat a new comedy of manners about the housing market in Hong Kong by Poon Wai-Sum, the Cantonese Alan Ayckbourn. It's been warmly received, but I was tired and couldn't really keep up with the surtitles. Interesting, to see what was essentially a bourgeois play about the rise of the Chinese middle class, however. I suspect it's a developing theme.

No comments: