REQUEST PROGRAMME 空中宅女 | Hong Kong, Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre

German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz’ 1971 tragic, wordless, one-woman play Wunschkonzert has been given a fresh interpretation for 2021 Hong Kong, the unnamed woman (Gabriella So) bursting through her cramped apartment door wearing a face mask, and immediately dousing herself with anti-bacterial sanitiser.

The seventy-five minutes unfolds in real time, as we scrutinise this lonely woman cook an egg and eat it, go to the toilet, and go to bed. Reminding us of this sinister voyeurism are TV screens on either side of the stage, displaying a multi-angle, black-and-white CCTV relay. Despite the seemingly mundane action, we learn a great deal about the character: she repeatedly examines herself in the mirror, and she is fastidious in laying her table for one.

In addition to So’s naturalistic yet energised performance, the set design (Yuen Hon Wai) is impossibly detailed for a small-scale black box production, including running water through the kitchen tap, a typical Hong Kong-style sliding double door, TV, radio, and even a breeze through the window. This jaw-dropping attention to detail makes the voyeurism all the more palpable.

Though Kroetz’ play is wordless, director Eugene Ma has incorporated a lot of Cantonese language, mostly by the radio DJ (CFun) and his selection of songs, though the resonances of these for the piece are lost on non-Cantonese speakers. Amazing that, fifty years later, and on the other side of the world, Kroetz’ work can remain so striking and relevant.

Playing 14 – 17 October 2021 at the Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre Cultural Activities Hall.

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