Hong Kong’s history is far from straightforward. From being a British colony to becoming what was, essentially, a glorified piece of Chinese real estate up for (British, again) grabs, this nation’s relationship to self-government has always been a primary political concern. And what Tang Wai-kit's performance is getting at, and even protesting, are Chinese infractions on Hong Kong’s right to sovereignty. These not-so-distant histories loom in the background as Life. In Hong Kong doubles down on a recent, and highly controversial, Chinese bill that authorises extraditions to mainland China. Of course, these changes are a total infringement on Hong Kong’s right to self-governance under that ‘’one country, two systems’’ philosophy.
A limited, but talented, cast are successful in recreating Hong Kong – as bursting metropolis and political hotspot – with palpable passion. Sometimes these two dimensions are sometimes beautifully intermeshed as everyday spaces and items (public transport, construction helmets, and colourful umbrellas) are staged as battlegrounds for and weapons against a never-ending conflict with China. But, too often, intermeshing fails and those transitions between daily life and sporadic militarised confrontations are weak which makes for what feels like a whiplash-inducing see-sawing between wildly dissimilar situations that are, in reality, be one and the same.
And that reality is remote for novices that do not arrive well-informed, or armed with a smartphone, who are unlikely to learn about Hong Kong-China relations through a coded mime performance that is, often, far more perplexing than it is enlightening. Indeed, their miming is most legible and accomplished when performing daily life which, perhaps, simply comes with the territory: mime favours generalities over particulars. Audiences might find themselves thinking that such an urgent material might be better communicated through other means.