“Last Episode of Centuries-old Dream of the Fishing Harbour”, performed by Theatre-horizon, directed by Chan Chu-hei, written by Wong Kwok-kui, and counseled by Law Wing-sang, was premiered on 21st February. It is a powerful epic-play narrating the development of Hong Kong’s localist consciousness from the perspective of the Loh-ting people (legendary HK mermaids and mermen). The beating of empty water bottles as drums was momentous. The actresses and actors were young people who took part in the Umbrella Revolution (2014-15), but their acting was sophisticated, and the fish-head masks made by themselves were artistically diversified.
In a narrow sense, the Loh-ting people in the play may symbolize the indigenous Tanka people who have been living for thousands of years on coastal parts of Hong Kong; in a broad sense, Loh-ting may stand for localist Hongkongers deeply attached to the city. Towards the end of the play, however, a wide split appears in the flow of ideological consciousness and between the signifier and the signified.
After the 1997 handover of HK to China, the Loh-ting people have gone through a series of events, e.g., SARS, the 2003 Anti-National Security Law Rally, the Anti-Express Rail Movement, the Anti-National Education Movement, the Umbrella Revolution, with their localist awareness readily growing. They have also learnt political wisdom from leaders of social movements like Long Hair, Wong Yukman and Joshua Wong. They start off advocating autonomy and end up declaring independence. Unexpectedly, at this very climax, upon briefly suppressed by the authorities, they suddenly become seafaring anarchists. The change is overwhelmingly abrupt.
Regarding the conflict between the signifier and the signified, towards the end of the play, the Loh-ting people declare independence of the Lantau Island, and try to chase away all human beings, including not only colonizers from China but also HK locals. Is this actually an irony condemning HK localists for resisting China colonizers?
Finally, the Loh-ting people even chop off their own limbs with a Freudian scythe, and jump into the sea in order to turn back into fish without frontiers. The symbolic significance is profoundly perplexing. Is the play suggesting Hongkongers to cut their local root and become a boat people on public seas? Or is it advising Hongkongers to emigrate overseas, and then, having secured a foreign passport, return to HK to make money, claiming themselves to be global citizens? Nonetheless, the drawbacks do not obscure the virtues of the play. It is, after all, a provocative play with rich meanings and worthwhile watching. Performance venue and dates: http://www.theatrehorizon.com/fishing3.html