【藝民節2015】A Review of Death in Hong Kong/Text by Bintou Nimaga

death

(Picture from Facebook of Fiesta Space)

Powerful, eloquent, audacious and unerringly veracious. “Death in Hong Kong” is a controversial yet much-needed artful portrayalofthe grimness and burden that entails from coming to terms with the inevitable –death.

Produced by Chan Yik Kei Jacky and Chau KaLun and directed by Leung Wai King, this play is written with such unapologetic frankness together witha touch of humor and satire that kept the audience depressed yet exhilarated throughout the entire performance.

We often catch ourselves causally using words like death, dying, or die as slangs to exaggerate or overstate true meanings intrivial situations. But in contexts where “death” is really involved, most people, including myself prefer to mask or disguise the real meaning witheuphemism. The use of euphemisms to avoid linguistic taboos seems to have a cultural aspect to it.Most of us are more comfortable saying “he has gone to a better place” instead of “he died” perhaps because we have been taught and cultivated to describe death in more favorable terms so as to get away from emotionally tough facts. Many of us live in cultures that perceive words like “dying” and “death” too upsetting to even fathom. Though I acknowledge that death euphemism allows a way for people to comfortably speak about taboos forbidden by the society, using ambiguous terms like “passed away” may breed a quintessential mindset that denies death instead of accepting it as an inevitable part of life. The play perfectlydepicts the conundrums many of us face when trying to accept or even talk about death. We deny, distort, or even twist realities to make them easier for us and for others to process. From a very young age, we were taught that straightforward terms for death may come out as explicit and offensive whereas using euphemistic terms is an act of respect.

The play ends with a young girl coming to terms with the sudden death of her mom that eventually sets her heart at rest and allows her to see the positive in a negative event, a great reminder to all of us that acknowledging loss can offer great possibilities.Then can unease can be mellowed down to familiarity, to acceptance and finally unflinching friendliness. It connects us deeper with life and allows us to experience what only mortality can make possible.“Death in Hong Kong” is a breakthrough performance that is heart-wrenching yet endearing and universally relatable underneath. It goes on to show how embracing death can be tempered by experience and by art.

I would like to end this review with a famous quote by Rainer Maria Rilkethat gives a comforting and beautiful insight into how befriending death can yield an expansion of being. “Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love…The great secret of death, and perhaps its deepest connection with us, is this: that, in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves.”

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