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Actors take a stroll down city's memory lane
Klaudia Lee
3 April 2005
South China Morning Post

The scenes were familiar, the songs were the signature tunes of Hong Kong's yesteryear, and the dialogue was a time capsule of the city's past half-century.

The first interactive theatrical performance at the Hong Kong Museum of History might have left some youngsters bored by the lengthy dialogues. But it was a joy for those who enjoyed recalling the old days.

"Oh, it's so real!" exclaimed an elderly lady in the audience at one point, to smiles from other audience members. She had just watched an actor, playing a policeman, shouting at residents of the Shekkipmei squatter area to register their names, after the terrible 1953 fire.

The audience was free to walk around the special exhibition gallery at the museum, following the performers from set to set, including the squatter camp, a pawnshop and a Chinese herbal tea shop.

The storyline is based on two families who overcome various difficulties during economic hard times, so it was predictable that songs like Under the Lion Rock are played to reflect that spirit.

Veteran actor Ben Ting Ka-sheung plays the role of a hard-working and honest man who, like thousands of others, has arrived from the mainland to find a job.

He leaves his wife and children at home and initially finds work in a relative's grocery store.

His daughter, played by Ada To Man-wai, joins him after his wife and son die in an accident. Working at a factory by day and studying by night, she slowly works her way through the difficult times, as does her friend - played by Gary Tam Wai-kuen - who later becomes her husband.

The play reconstructs scenes of the 1967 riots, the long queues for buckets of water during droughts in the 1960s, and the era when young people preferred go-go dancing to working hard for a living. It is being staged to mark the museum's 30th anniversary.

The light-hearted atmosphere comes to a halt when patriotic songs and sounds of the broadcast of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown are heard.

But the solemn atmosphere is eventually replaced by a happy ending when all the protagonists - whatever their mishaps along the way - have built decent lives thanks to their fighting spirit.

One member of the audience, Alice Chan, emerged smiling from the show. "It's very touching: it reminds me of the old days," she said, as her friends nodded.

But her 11-year-old son, Gene, was not so enthusiastic. "It's boring," the Form One student said.

The 90-minute show will continue for the next three weekends. For information call 27343009.
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