It wouldn’t be fair to just call Freedom Hi 自由閪 a play. A collection of writing and performance by several UK-based Hong Kong and British East Asian artists, it’s an attempt to collate some kind of artistic response to the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
“Attempt” is the crucial word. How can these artists respond to a situation that is still ongoing, a situation that is causing them so much pain, fear, anger, and even danger? It’s nigh on impossible – that’s the point. It’s not a solidified, sanitised piece of work – it’s an experiment that takes its failures alongside its successes.
A good portion of the show uses Telegram, a messaging app used by protesters for organising – audience members are invited to send messages on it throughout the show. Banality is set alongside horrors – cat pictures are shown alongside police brutality. Figures in Erin Guan and Tak Chan’s pixelated dog and pig masks loom at the sides of the stage, silently watching.
The performers speak about how, when researching for the show, the team saw Telegram messages being deleted right before their eyes. There is a consistent sense of instability and paranoia to Freedom Hi 自由閪 that builds to a fever pitch – voices build up on the app while Ghost Chan, Francis John Chan, and Shum Pui Yung twitch and flow in increasingly frenetic movement. The strongest piece is Daniel York Loh’s Big White Cop – a spurt of righteous anti-racist fury, punchy and vivid in its rhythms, performed with an unwavering eye by Jennifer Lim.
Director Kim Pearce lets Freedom Hi 自由閪 sprawl out – it’s a self-consciously messy, furiously sad piece. It doesn’t all work. But then again, you wouldn’t want it to.