Arts Chinese Theatre Review Theatre

Review: Tri Ka Tsai – A uniquely trilingual Hong Kong cabaret by Yuri Ng X Anna Lo X Rick Lau

The Hong Kong term Tri Ka Tsai specifically refers to a trilingual Gen X or millennial living in post-colonial Hong Kong who speaks Cantonese, English and Putonghua (Mandarin). While some people may see that as a mishmash of cultures, Hong Kongers and artists Yuri Ng, Anna Lo and Rick Lau have instead chosen to embrace their status as proud tri ka tsais themselves, and come together to educate and celebrate their unique cultural identities, and their homeland’s bittersweet struggle with three languages.

Unabashedly multilingual and multicultural, Tri Ka Tsai then takes the form of a unique cabaret experience created and performed by Anna (also composer) and Rick, with Yuri directing (also set and costume designer). One a dancer/choreographer, another a composer and musician, and the last a musical theatre performer, Tri Ka Tsai is a light-hearted work that is all about welcoming newcomers to the community, filled with good natured humour and a warm, inviting spirit.

Joined by musicians Nelson Ng, Antonio Serrano Jr., Victor Tsang, and Wong Tak Chung, the performers enter and begin to share their stories about life as a tri ka tsai, and the slow, steady los of such a culture, with more people being ‘bi’ (bilingual) ka tsai these days. Yet, they press on, in a massive, big hearted celebration that sees them performing pulsing rock songs (complete with electric guitar, bass and drums), sharing about the odd English names they’ve encountered in Hong Kong due to warped translations (‘Anus Ho’ being a highlight), and most of all, their endless fascination for how this hybrid language continues to change as culture evolves.

What is most impressive about the show is how much larger than life it feels, transforming the Esplanade Recital Studio into a grandiose mini concert hall, full of joy. Each song performed is filled with witty multilingual puns and anecdotes, from garbling Confucius with ‘confusion’, to how surprising complications arise from ordering coffee at the local ‘Barstucks’, or even a cheeky hymn punning on ‘RMB’. Anna and Rick bring their infectious brand of joie de vivre to the stage, and we can’t help but smile as we watch them.

At the same time, there are emotional moments amidst the laughs, and a weight that comes with the power that such a trilingual culture has. There is something special about speaking this ‘secret language’ among themselves, bringing them together in this shared knowledge. There is a poignancy to their sharing, and what we walk away from it is newfound information and appreciation for these unexpected things that bring people together. All it takes is the first step to open your mouth and try, and for someone else to listen. Perhaps that is how regardless of language, we can somehow find it in us to communicate and form these precious bonds and memories with each other.

Photo Credit: Ken Cheong

Tri Ka Tsai – A uniquely trilingual Hong Kong cabaret played from 27th to 28th January 2023 at the Esplanade Recital Studio. More information available here

Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2023 ran from 27th January to 5th February 2023 at the Esplanade. Full programme and lineup available here

0 comments on “Review: Tri Ka Tsai – A uniquely trilingual Hong Kong cabaret by Yuri Ng X Anna Lo X Rick Lau

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: