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Arts of Hong Kong 2021: A Winter Funeral by Hong Kong Repertory Theatre

Screenshot 2021-03-09 at 7.19.38 PM

HONG KONG – A wedding clashes with a funeral. Should we make merry with the newlyweds, or pay respects to the dead? Israeli master playwright Hanoch Levin details the story of a family determined to throw a daughter’s wedding despite a funeral set on the same date. Throwing caution to the winds, they decide that the party must go on, traversing mountains and crossing the seas to avoid the funeral, enacting a veritable “great escape.”

Translated and directed by Weigo Lee, co-directed by HKRep Assistant Artistic Director Fung Wai Hang, A Winter Funeral features Mercy Wong, Chan Kiu, Karrie Tan, Yu Hon Ting, Ko Hon Man, Yau Ting Fai, Lui Si Lan, Vivian Chan and Trickle Choi. This production runs from March 13th through 28th at the Hong Kong Arts Centre Shouson Theatre.

A Winter Funeral follows middle-aged bachelor Lajcek, who is beholden to his mother’s final wish that all members of her family attend her funeral. Yet the funeral clashes with his cousin’s wedding, resulting in his aunt and her family doing everything they can to avoid the others: climbing up on their roof, dashing across a beach, even climbing the Himalayas to escape from Lajcek’s hot pursuit.

Israeli dramatist Hanoch Levin was an expert in mining the conflicts inherent in human nature through the prism of ordinary lives, using humour and farce to shine a light on society. A Winter Funeral was written in 1978 and has since been translated into many languages and staged around the world.

Translator and Director Weigo Lee remarks: “A Winter Funeral is portrayed as a surreal comedy, yet it brings out the perennial theme of life and death. While the storyline consists of common events—life’s celebrations and mournings—the imaginative plot borders on the musings of a madman. Not only do viewers enjoy a good belly laugh, but they also ponder the meaning of life.” The play takes us from mountaintops to ocean depths, posing many challenges in staging. The acting ensemble gets physical in portraying their characters and plot twists while inspiring us to examine the value and meaning of life.

Co-director Fung Wai Hang adds: “A Winter Funeral employs the contrast of a wedding and a funeral to delve into the essence of life’s pursuits. Every character is stubborn in his or her own way. But in the hustle and bustle of our world, we realize that ultimately we all face the same thing at the end of the road, where everyone is treated equal. Death may even come out of the blue, throwing everything out of kilter. In the past year, we’ve all weathered unprecedented challenges and hardships. How to find that positive attitude to remain calm or solve problems—these are the gifts that A Winter Funeral bestows upon us.”

After a year of intermittent theatre closures and openings, Fung Wai Hang looks forward to seeing A Winter Funeral on stage. “During the pandemic, Hong Kongers’ entertainment mainstay comprises television, film and internet streams, all of which attest to the prominence of art and the performing arts profession, reminding us yet again of art’s function and importance in society. To physically enter the theatre and share the experience of human contact is crucial in soothing and healing the soul. We hope that with the reopening of theatres, the HKRep will again bring fine productions to the public.”

A Winter Funeral runs from 13th to 28th March 2021 at Hong Kong Arts Centre Shouson Theatre. Tickets available here

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