The Hong Kong plague of 1894 –
A story of Dr. Alexandre Yersin and human ingenuity
30* September - 1 October 2011 (Fri - Sat) 8 pm
Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre
* With post-performance talk
Performed in English with a little Cantonese and French
This programme contains scenes which some audience members may find disturbing, with strong content
About the Story
In the summer of 1894 Dr Alexandre Yersin and Professor Shibasaburo Kitasato came to Hong Kong to assist the government against an outbreak of plague, an outbreak which was to spread across the world. Which one of them made the discovery of the bacillus was a matter of dispute at the time, but the microbe was seen through the microscope, the first time anywhere in the world that the tiny organism which for centuries had brought death and horror to millions of people around the globe yielded its identity to humanity's advancing technologies, thus opening the way to vaccines and an understanding of the disease's transmission.
Fragile considers the story of Dr Alexandre Yersin, Professor Kitasato and the Hong Kong plague of 1894 in the wider context of disease, medical and optical science and religion, through poetic and theatrical imagery, text and recorded music. The result is grim, eerie and comic.
Fragile — Why the plague?
The plague is of interest as an instance of horror. Horror, in history and in fiction, is of interest in trying to understand the human condition and the meanings of the universe. The picture is complicated by religion: if benevolent, why does a deity allow the suffering of the innocent? The answer 'free will' is insufficient.
The development of medicine, science and technology thickens the plot. Lenses, in microscopes and telescopes, enable us to see further and deeper, and to reveal the astounding complexity and beauty of the inorganic, organic and cosmological worlds.
There is pleasure in darkness, but we should distinguish between art and act: a picture of suffering may be savoured aesthetically — a vision of hell by Bosch, Hans Andersen's freezing little match girl, a woodcut of plague victims; but suffering in life should be prevented, avoided, diminished, where possible. Where impossible, it can be transcended.
The story of Dr Yersin and Professor Kitasato in Hong Kong in 1894 is the perfect hook from which to hang a performance about these ideas. The development of germ theories and microscope technologies in the second half of the nineteenth century (through Pasteur, Koch, Lister and others) made possible Yersin's discovery of the plague bacillus. An understanding of the role of rats and their fleas followed, as did the possibility of vaccines and the diminution of suffering.
So, what to expect from Fragile? Grimness, beauty, eerieness. And stifled giggling.
Fragile is the fifth production in Peter Suart’s Eternity Cabaret series, started in Hong Kong in the 90s. Suart was raised in Hong Kong and has spent half of his life here. He co-founded ‘the box’, a theatrical music ensemble, with Kung Chi Shing in Hong Kong in 1987, and the group has presented numerous works including Lockheadjig, Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard. Suart performs his own music and poetry in England with The Vaguely Stoat-like Intermediates. He also writes and illustrates for publishers in Hong Kong and London.
His 2011 projects include: illustration of classic texts for The Folio Society in London; one-man performance of Fragile in Cardiff, UK and Hong Kong; graphic design of a book of Chinese art; a talk on the Golden Age of Illustration; miniature drawing of Chinese art objects; competition in the Steep Lawn Tennis Club's men's singles league. Long term projects include: reading the world's literary canon; perfecting an illustrated novel, at present eighteen years in the making; acquiring a western grip top-spin backhand playable with impunity, even on the half-volley; encouraging the young to independence of thought, civility and goodwill.
Tickets available from 5 August onwards at all URBTIX outlets, on Internet and by Credit Card Telephone Booking
* Half-price tickets available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients (Limited tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis). Concessionary ticket holders must produce evidence of their identity or age upon admission
* Group Booking Discount
10% off for each purchase of 4 - 9 standard tickets;
15% off for each purchase of 10 - 19 standard tickets;
20% off for each purchase of 20 or more standard tickets
* Boundless Multi-Media Series Special Booking Discount
(Only applicable for the tickets purchased in the URBTIX Outlets)
For A Performative Communication – Blending Worlds by Primary Shapes & DJ Tommy, Without Blood by Compañia Teatrocinema (Chile) and A One-man Performance - Fragile by Peter Suart (UK):
10% off for each purchase of standard tickets for any two programmes;
15% off for each purchase of standard tickets for all three programmes
Each ticket admits one person only. Patrons can enjoy only one of the above discount schemes for each purchase. Please inform the box office staff at the time of purchase
Other programmes in Boundless Multi-Media Series: A New Media Music Experiment (case 1) - Digital Hug by Gaybird Leung, A Performative Communication – Blending Worlds by Primary Shapes & DJ Tommy and A One-Man Performance - Fragile by Peter Suart (UK)