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What the play is about:
In search for a reconstruction of the lived, intimate (blood-tied) experience of the ‘old Hong Konger’.
Intercepting from an activist into an awkward, uncomfortable, aloof (from the lives and consciousness of the masses) culture consumption goods producer.
Becoming part of the daily dust dotting the new Hong Kong through alienated work (newspaper columns, films, undecipherable art, ‘aimless’ exercises).
Two ventures: to creep through the thick, swarmy ‘reality’ consciousness and production circuit and professing one in the modern coded language, or to leap into a mix and remix of one’s subconscious and previously lived experienced into a lucid re-creation of reality, in a form of devil’s contract, selling one’s soul and consciousness for excitement eliciting.
The clash of these two roads taken – in a head-on regret of that particular turning point of events (that Victoria Park demo that resulted in an exile and a premature death).
All are struggling to reveal and assimilate a muted past, and in embracing the dawn of a new age, under Margaret Thatcher’s hypnotically elegent prose that declared the ‘return to the motherland’, 19 December 1984. Hong Kong’s 1984.
I think I really appreciated the layers and all-roundedness in each character. (The bordering on hateful, pretentious, distant-keeping personalities, that gradually resolved into something more rounded and humane, and also fresh employment and action settings of each character). At first I was not too comfortable with their theatre-way of unnatural speech and intonation, but gradually I got used to it, and in the final few scenes the intonation and emotions became a lot of naturally flowing, I think.
Also I really appreciate the juxtaposition of the climatic conflict – between a pair of brothers bearing the same history 6 years apart but overlapping in some experience of key scenarios and characters. The other-worldly faith in communicating through dreams vs. inevitability of speechlessness in this era provided a dreamy yet sharp, and also fresh (relative to many dramas) means of dramatic conflict. I think I thoroughly enjoyed the second last scene when the two brothers wielded swords over the final say/ decision over recounting their shared past.
I also really liked the juxtaposition of characters and props on the stage (stage setting?), mainly of the final scene. That half-waking-up, detachment of body from consciousness and reality from dreams, the way they all completely succumbed to the dreamy world that only Hei was able to enter in all scenes before, showed a silent triumph of the ‘bounded consciousness’ in revenging against a will once succumbed to the ‘new’ HK reality. To the extent that losing the score writing opportunity, which meant everything and was the sole engine driving the drama forward, meant literally nothing anymore. This was a brilliant plot move.
I’m not too sure what to make of Xu Yianfeng, but I am sure I enjoyed the lucid dream version description of her. And the photo shots that kind of represented how one is being forcibly capture in history by inevitably incomplete and dishonest snapshots.
Reflecting on myself, the drama deployed a subcontext of ’70友’, something that 報社友 can identify with. Is this a prophecy of how we’ll interact in the future? However I find this representation of ‘us’ lacking in a crucial dimension: what were ‘we’ fighting for? ‘Decolonisation’? Right to lay claim on ‘the people’? When all these became mystified/ insider-ed into ‘study groups’ and ‘protests’, this is inevitably a yearning within the circle of intellectuals who are now relatively aloof from real material struggles.
This also asks another very important question for my life: is a future as a cultural product producer appealing? Or is it bound to go into ‘champagne socialist’ directions? What is the role of activist-veterans in times unfavorable to taking onto the streets and shouting in loudspeakers? How to avoid empty self-begging in the future?
I think Fa in the drama provided a better illustration of the balance between 入世 and 出世。You can be a 7am-5pm worker without compromising the fire lit in your spirits at some point before. You can ride the modern tides and still stay true to yourself and remind veterans around you to do so.
For me, I think I inevitably want to act and be on the negotiation tables at some point. Even though I am rash, easily startled by even the smallest opposing moves and criticisms, I do feel like the way to press things forward is to be on the institutional frontlines. The point however is to learn to observe before acting and gain some social, people skills. But I do not need to act like some dominating predecessors. And I have learn to accept the differences of members in a team. There are many more aspects of a person for development than sheer, perfecting political-economic grand theories and making clever points for clever people to read and amaze themselves with.
Though when lost it might be good to take an afternoon nap and hope the dive into one’s subconsciousness can bring some already known answers afloat.
Is this part of the ‘betrayal’, the forgotten years?