Mar
20
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAYREADING WITH THE FRINGE

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Dancing at Lughnasa (1990)” by Brian Friel

 

This month's play, Dancing at Lughnasa, is one of the most highly regarded to come out of Ireland in the past 30 years. It is more accessible for our reading group than The Beauty Queen of Leenane Martin McDonagh's dark comedy, which is being presented at the Hong Kong Arts Festival this year. Dancing at Lughnasa, arguably Brian Friel's last major original work, won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Broadway Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play in the same year. The play is the story of five unmarried sisters eking out their lives in a small village in Ireland in l936; their ages range from 26 up to 40. We meet them at the time of the festival of Lughnasa, which celebrates the pagan god of the harvest with drunken revelry and dancing. Their spare existence is interrupted by brief, colorful bursts of music from the radio, their only link to the romance and hope of the world at large. The action of the play is told through the memory of the illegitimate son of one of the sisters as he remembers the five women who raised him, his mother and four maiden aunts. He is only seven in 1936, the year his elderly uncle, a priest, returns after serving for twenty-five years as a missionary in a Ugandan leper colony. For the young boy, two other disturbances occur that summer. The sisters acquire their first radio, whose music transforms them from correct Catholic women to shrieking, stomping banshees in their own kitchen. And he meets his father for the first time, a charming Welsh drifter who strolls up the lane and sweeps his mother away in an elegant dance across the fields. From these small events spring the cracks that destroy the foundation of the family forever. In depicting two days in the life of this ménage Brian Friel evokes not just a group of human beings trapped in their domestic situation but the wider landscape, interior and exterior, Christian and pagan, of which they are part. Commonly regarded as Brian Friel’s masterpiece, this haunting play is Friel’s tribute to the courageous spirit of the past. The New York Post described it as “no way a play to be missed — simply a wondrous experience. Experience it.”

 

Below is a copy of the script. We will bring a few copies in case anybody doesn't have it, but please download it to iPads/mobiles etc. or get your own printout. Thanks.

http://blocksclass.com/libr/lughnasa.pdf

 

And, for your reference, a clip from the film which starred Meryl Streep:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z7Crz4124e8

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Feb
20
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAYREADING WITH THE FRINGE

  • The HK Fringe Club,

The Play this time:

“The Imitation Game” by Ian McEwan

 

This month for our play-reading we turn our attention to a rather different kind of play, namely a television play. First broadcast in 1980 and written by the well-known Booker-prize-winning British novelist Ian McEwan, the play did not get the attention it deserved at the time. Having competed his first novel, McEwan was commissioned to write it for the BBC Play for Today series, and it was directed by then up-and-coming director Richard Eyre, today a major name in theatre directing for NT and other companies. Unlike the 2014 film The Imitation Game’’ based on Andrew Hodges biography of Alan Turing, the play focuses on one of the women who worked in the mans world of Bletchley Park, the code-breaking centre where British Intelligence was working to crack the inscrutable Enigma Code in which signals and plans were transmitted by the Nazis. McEwan described his motivation for writing the play in a well-written introduction to the script.

(see https://www.lrb.co.uk/v03/n02/ian-mcewan/ian-mcewan-writes-about-his-television-plays:)

 

Initially I wanted to write a play about Alan Turing, the brilliant young mathematician who was brought to Bletchley Park from Cambridge during the war to work on Ultra, the decipherment of the German Enigma codes. He was one of the founding fathers of modern computers. He was a homosexual and suffered for it at the hands of the law. He died in 1953 in circumstances so far not completely explained. And by this time certain other facts about Bletchley Park were interesting me more. By the end of the war ten thousand people were working in and around Bletchley. The great majority of them were women doing vital but repetitive jobs working the bombes electro-mechanical computing machines (Turing was a major force in their development) which were fed menus and ran through thousands of combinations of letters until a code was broken. The need to know rule meant that the women knew as much as was necessary to do their jobs, which was very little. As far as I could discover, there were virtually no women in at the centre of the Ultra secret. There was a widely held view at the beginning of the war that women could not keep secrets. Secrecy and power go hand in hand. Traditionally, women had been specifically excluded, by clearly stated rules written by men, from government, higher education, the professions, trade guilds, the priesthood and from inherited property: in effect, until recent times, from citizenship. And yet women seemed somehow essential to the conduct of war. Their moral and emotional commitment was vital, for they were the living embodiment of what the men fought to protect from the Enemy.

 

McEwans Imitation Game protagonist Cathy Raine is portrayed as a highly intelligent and capable woman who wants to employ her abilities to further the war effort, but whose wish to be treated as an equal is thwarted. This dramatic portrait is strongly at odds with Keira Knightlys somewhat glossy portrayal of Joan Clarke, who worked with Turing and others. The voices of real women who contributed at Bletchley Park have been suppressed, supposedly for national security reasons. McEwans play gives us an insight into the gender discrimination they would actually have faced, and is far more thought-provoking than the movie version, which was timed to benefit from the hypocritical and patronising Royal Pardon granted retrospectively to Turing in 2013. 

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Jan
16
7:30 pm19:30

ESU PLAYREADING WITH THE FRINGE

  • The HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“The Entertainer” by John Osborne

 

For the first play-reading of 2017 we have chosen a play that is currently in Hong Kong cinemas, the Kenneth Branagh Company’s captured live production of John Osborne’s play The Entertainer. Branagh’s production, with Branagh himself in the title role, recognises the play as a modern classic. Having depicted an "angry young man" in his earlier hit West End play Look Back in Anger (1956), Osborne wrote, at Laurence Olivier's request, a new work concerning an angry middle-aged man in the follow-up. Its main character is Archie Rice, a failing music-hall performer. The first performance was given on 10 April 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre, London, a theatre known for its commitment to new and nontraditional drama; the inclusion of a West End star such as Olivier in the cast caused much interest.

 

The Entertainer is a portrayal of the Rice family, spanning three generations of vaudeville artists who are finding it increasingly difficult to secure their position in the midst of the fast-changing world. Conversations between the grandfather Billy and his granddaughter Jean alternate with performances by his son Archie, whose sarcastic songs hold a mirror up to his audience. His protagonist Archie Rice performs twice nightly at a nude revue, with musical numbers intercepted into the drama drawing parallels not only with the wider cultural and economic movement but also with domestic issues that hang over his fractured family. When the family comes together and the liquor kicks in, news of the death of Archie’s son Mick – killed in action overseas – leaves all its members feeling utterly adrift. Osborne paints a grim picture of England as an empire in decline, where the underprivileged classes are no more than cannon fodder and their patriotism and latent racism combine to create a toxic cocktail. In the Rice family Osborne depicts granddaughter Jean as the only hope for the future: she refuses to be a martyr and rejects nostalgic talk and blaming convenient enemies. By turns sentimental, provocative and tender, this bold play draws on the rich music hall tradition, dressing despair as comedy and setting cynicism to the tune of bittersweet melody.

 

In The Entertainer the music-hall tradition - once thriving in Hong Kong, as in the UK - is a metaphor for the nation: the decline and fall of the Holborn Empire would mirror the decline and fall of the British Empire. Set against the background of the Suez Crisis, Osborne draws together the cultural significance of the decline of British music hall throughout the 1950s as a symbol for the decline of the country in a wider sense. “The music hall is dying,” Osborne wrote in his author’s note to the published text, “and, with it, a significant part of England. Some of the heart of England has gone; something that once belonged to everyone, for this was truly a folk art.” The play continues to fascinate audiences and theatre companies, and in 2016-17 could hardly feel more relevant to a contemporary audience in a world of deep social and political divisions.

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Dec
2
7:00 pm19:00

ESU ANNUAL DINNER WITH TALK BY MR CHRISTOPHER RAWLINGS

  • Shanghai Min Restaurant (上海小南國)

ESU (HK) Annual Dinner

 

with Talk by Mr Christopher RAWLINGS

Director, the British Council, Hong Kong

 

Topic: “From Bosnia to Colombia: Reflections from the Front Line”

 

Chris Rawlings read Zoology and then Clinical Immunology.  He worked in clinical research and then in international insurance before joining the British Council in 1992.  He has taken up duties in East Africa and South-East Asia and was posted to India (1998-2000) before working as Strategic Adviser to the British Council’s Director-General (2000-03).  He was Director of the British Council’s operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2003 and worked in all 16 countries of the British Council’s South East Europe region as well as Ukraine.  In October 2007 he was appointed Director of the British Council in México and from late summer 2012 he has been Director of the British Council in Colombia with line management responsibility for Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela and Peru. In summer 2016 he takes up a new role with oversight of advanced economies, based in Hong Kong.

 

HK$550 ESU Members

HK$650 Non-Members

Nov
21
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAY-READING WITH THE FRINGE

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“No Man’s Land” by Harold Pinter (1975)

 

No Man’s Land is the re-run of a Pinter play that has proved a great success recently in Broadway and in the West End of London. It has been performed in repertory together with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in which the two great contemporary actors, Patrick Steward and Ian McKellen play the roles of Didi and Gogo. Here in Pinter’s London-set, mid-period play they play complementary and conflicting characters likewise. Stewart plays Hirst, an alcoholic upper-class literary figure who lives in a grand house presumed to be in Hampstead, with Foster and Briggs - respectively hissecretary and man servant (or apparent bodyguard), who may be lovers. Spooner, played in the recent production by McKellen, a "failed, down-at-heel poet" whom Hirst has "picked up in a Hampstead pub" and invited home for a drink, becomes Hirst's house guest for the night. Claiming to be a fellow poet, through a contest of at least-partly fantastic reminiscences, he appears to have known Hirst at university and to have shared mutual male and female acquaintances and relationships. Hirst’s life is fantasy to a large degree, and Spooner plays along — pretending to be an old Oxford chum, someone who’s shared girlfriends with him, a fellow poet. As they become increasingly inebriated the conversation turns into a power game. Then Hirst’s two servants, the bulky, menacing Briggs and the cocky Foster, destroy the rapport (even if false) of their two elders and seek to control and manipulate the situation. Although the two older men discuss possibly fictional or at least highly imaginary wives and girlfriends they claim to have known and remembered in a tone that veers between fantasy and pathetic ‘men’s talk’, no women actually change the suffocating dynamic, any more than than they do in Godot, of which Pinter’s play is a kind of mirror image. Pinter, the Nobel prizewinner of 2005, not long before his death that same year, was a close friend and great admirer of Beckett. The four characters of the play are named after cricket players, Pinter having been known as an avid cricket fan and amateur player. This NT Live production will be coming to Hong Kong in the New Year, and is well worth seeing. Below is an introductory clip from the National Theatre production:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v6ts3kvltE

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitator: Mr Julian Quail.

Oct
17
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAY-READING WITH THE FRINGE

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“I Am Shakespeare” by Mark Rylance

 

In the quatercentenary year of Shakespeare’s death, we will read a play that whimsically questions the great man’s identity. I Am Shakespeare is stellar actor Mark Rylance's fascinating, witty and characteristically exuberant dramatic contribution to the Shakespeare authorship debate. Is it possible that the son of an illiterate tradesman, from a small market town in Warwickshire, could have written the greatest dramatic works the world has ever seen? It's a question that has puzzled scholars, theatre practitioners and theatre-goers for many years. The philosopher, Francis Bacon; the Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere; and Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: all of them have been put forward as the real author of the plays. But why would they hide behind an anonymous actor? Who was the real Bard of Stratford? Mark Rylance is one of a number of leading actors who seriously question the idea that William Shakespeare was the man behind the thirty-seven plays that have moved, inspired and amazed generations. To Rylance’s credit his play is balanced and humorous, even though he espouses the so-called ‘anti-Stratfordian’ position in the debate.

 

First performed at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2007, Rylance's provocative play introduces us to the main candidates and their respective claims whilst asking fundamental questions about what makes a genius, and why it all matters anyway. First performed at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2007, Rylance’s provocative play introduces us to four candidates and their respective claims – whilst asking fundamental questions about what makes a genius, and why it all matters anyway. In a self-mocking spirit, the former artistic director of the Globe plays a twitchy obsessive called Frank Charlton, who, operating from a garden shed, runs a cranky website devoted to challenging received wisdoms about the Bard - not that anyone in the world appears to be logging on to watch his DIY TV show! There's the old snob objection: how could someone with no university education be such an expert in so many branches of learning? Then there are some scholarly snippets. Why are there so many apparent parallels between the writings of Francis Bacon and some of the proverbs and sayings in Shakespeare's plays? Why was Edward De Vere apparently known for comedies that were never performed? And could not Mary Sidney (sister of poet Philip), who promoted an English literary renaissance, also represent the "Swan of Avon” figure? Plenty of food for thought and plenty of controversy! To read one acerbic response from the pro-Stratfordian side, click the link below:

 

http://bardfilm.blogspot.hk/2015/03/book-note-i-am-shakespeare.html

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Oct
8
Oct 29

ESU HK Schools Speech Festival 2016 – Teacher Training

  • Aston Education (by courtesy of the Institute)

This programme is designed to help English teachers at either primary or secondary levels to prepare students for the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival, 2016. The English-Speaking Union’s experienced trainers/educators will be able to offer advice to teachers on diction, expression, interpretation and performance, as well as on techniques for developing students’ appreciation and awareness of rhetorical features of the relevant texts. Participants will be given a chance to share their own experiences.

Dates:

Session 1  Sat 8 Oct  Choral / Harmonic Speaking   Conductor: Mr Simon Tham

Session 2 Sat 15 Oct Solo Prose Speaking, Solo Prose Reading. Dramatic Duologue    Conductor: Mr Daniel Bird

Session 3   Sat 22 Oct   Solo Dramatic Performance, Dramatic Scenes, Shakespeare Monologue. Thematic Group Speaking. Public-Speaking Solo, Public-Speaking Team     Conductor: Mr Daniel Bird

Session 4    Sat 29 Oct  Solo Verse Speaking    Conductor: Dr Gillian Bickley

 

Fee: HK$200 per session or HK$700 for 4 sessions

·            Limited places per session. First come first served.

·            Certificates will be awarded for Continuous Professional Development credits.

Biographies of the ESU tutors are available on request.

For enrolment and enquiries: Tel: 2186-8449 or Mobile 6903-2639 (M-F am only); Email: esuhk@netvigator.com

Sep
19
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAY-READING WITH THE FRINGE

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“The Play that Goes Wrong” by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields

 

The Play that Goes Wrong is a hit spoof comedy from a new company formed by fresh graduates of one of London’s top drama training schools LAMDA back in 2008. The group devised the play as an ensemble production, and the script was co-written by three of its founding members for an upstairs performance at the Old Red Lion Pub Theatre, in London in 2012. Its phenomenal popularity, based on word of mouth among its mainly young audiences, saw the play move to the West End, Trafalgar Studios, in 2013, and then tour the UK and the international circuit in 2014. It won Best New Comedy at the 2015 Laurence Olivier Awards and Best New Comedy at the WhatsOnStage.com Awards in 2014.

 

Inspired by Michael Green’s 1964 book The Art of Coarse Acting, as well asthe comic antics of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean, the result is a play characterised by lost props, fluffed lines (mistakes), bungled entrances and falling scenery. Two other significant theatrical references for comparison are Michael Frayn’s farcical play-within-a play, Noises Off (1981) – which features frantic backstage scenes as the play lurches from one technical disaster to the next - and another more recent spoof comedy from 2005, The Thirty Nine Steps, a huge national and international touring success. Its plot also humorously parallels the West End’s longest running play, Agatha Christie’s who-dun-it mystery, The Mousetrap which opened in 1952. As in Frayn’s Noises Off, Mischief Theatre Company doubles as the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, bringing its latest production, ‘Murder at Haversham Manor’, a murder mystery set in an upper class house in the 1920s, to the stage. Thus, there are two casts - the amateur actors in the theatre company and the stock characters they play in the murder mystery, including Charles Haversham who is dead at the beginning of the play, his fiancée Florence and the mandatory Inspector who miraculously appears to investigate his death. The play recalls drawing room comedies and witty romances by Noel Coward, but only superficially. The trouble is that everything that can go wrong on this opening night does – much to the audience’s delight. The performance is beset with disasters and the accident-prone cast struggle woodenly through every scene. Reading a play about really bad acting promises to be enormous fun.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail – with an introduction about Michael Green’s The Art of Coarse Acting and the tradition of stage comedy.

 

All are welcome whether you wish to read or just listen.

Aug
15
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAY-READING WITH THE FRINGE

  • "Colette's", 2/F, The HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

"August Osage County" by Tracy Letts

 

August: Osage County is a Black Comedy genre play by American stage actor and playwright Tracy Letts. The play won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was subsequently adapted for the big screen, and starred Meryl Streep in the title role of the domineering family matriarch, Violet Weston with Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch in other roles. The play premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago on June 28, 2007. It had its Broadway debut at the Imperial Theatre on December 4, 2007, and the production transferred to the Music Box Theatre, closing in June, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews. The show made its UK Debut at London's National Theatre in November 2008.

 

In many ways August: Osage County recalls the concentrated naturalistic dramatic intensity of family plays by earlier North American naturalist dramatists, such as Eugene O'Neill (particularly Long Day's Journey into Night) and Tennessee Williams (particularly Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). The dramatic action takes place over the course of several weeks during a stiflingly hot summer in August inside the three-story home of Beverly and Violet Weston outside Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The play opens with a prologue. Beverly Weston, a once-famous poet, is interviewing Johanna, a young Native American woman, for a position as live-in cook and caregiver for his wife Violet, who is being treated for mouth cancer due to heavy cigarette use for most of her life. Violet is addicted to several different kinds of prescription drugs and exhibits paranoia and mood swings. Beverly, who freely admits that he himself is an alcoholic, discusses Violet's current problems, and hints at the dysfunctional family history which will be made apparent to the reader/audience in subsequent acts of the play. Following this opening prologue we discover that Beverly has disappeared and the three acts of the play chart the family's inadequate efforts to trace his whereabouts. Violet's three daughters, Ivy, Mattie and Karen arrive at different points of the first act with their family members in tow, and the rest of the play features the intense conflicts that take place within the four walls of Violet's home. The matriarch's lacerating tongue and vicious irony dominate the proceedings, especially at meal-times and gradually the layers of characters' everyday personas are peeled away to reveal the damage wrought by their abusive family history, with the mystery of the father Beverly's disappearance hanging over the family like a storm-cloud.

 

Please note that the play is quite long (conventional three-act naturalistic drama) so we will need to read it relatively fast. Everyone is of course welcome to read, but some slower readers may prefer just to listen. The movie has the same title and is available on DVD and can probably be streamed or accessed on Netflix, etc. Watching beforehand would give a good insight into the nature of the play.

 

All are welcome whether you wish to read or just listen.

 

Facilitator: Dr Mike Ingham.

Jun
27
6:45 pm18:45

Meet at the ESU (HK)

  • Aston Education (by courtesy of the Institute)

“A Tale of Two Stories – Teachers’ & Students’ Perspectives of Digital Story-Telling”

Speakers: Ms Irene LEE and Mr Billy CHAN, HK Polytechnic University

 

·               Certificates will be awarded for Continuous Professional Development credits.

 

You are invited to join our ESU (HK) monthly gathering! All are welcome!

 

This talk will look at the digital story-telling from two perspectives – that of the teachers and of the students’. The insights that were gathered from the interviews/surveys/meetings with teachers and students will be shared informally and we will then discuss to see if the tale meets at some point in using digital story-telling as a multi-modal form of assessment.

 

Speakers’ Bio

Ms Lee considers herself as an evolutionary digital immigrant trying to make sense of the world that her digital native students are born into. Her experiments with using technological-mediated tools has influenced and evolutionalized her professional role and she believes that the way forward for teachers is to continually use technology-enhanced tools in a teaching and learning context to model to their digital native students on how we should be making effective use of technology to stretch our learning.

 

Mr Chan applies action research into his teaching so as to inform current pedagogies and methodologies in education. He is particularly interested in the use of Digital Storytelling in education recently. His other professional/research interests focus on genre, and multi-literacies in English Teaching as a Foreign Language/ for Specific Purposes.

 

Donations: ESU Members HK$80; Non-Members: $95;

Full-time Students up to age 24: $25

Free for New ESU Members

Jun
20
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAY-READING WITH THE FRINGE

  • HK FRINGE CLUB

The Play this time:

“Black Comedy” by Peter Shaffer

 

We continue with our celebration of the 90th birthday this year of Sir Peter Shaffer, author of many award-winning plays and films, starring equally well known actors.

 

Our first Shaffer play reading in April was the 1979 ‘Amadeus’, while May saw his first drama, the 1958 Five Finger Exercise, currently being revived on the London stage. This month of June we will look at his extremely funny 1965 farce entitled ‘Black Comedy’.

 

While the concept of black comedy usually refers to dark humour of serious subject matter, nevertheless in this instance the title is a play on words, as it is a reverse drama. This means the play begins in complete darkness. However, after a few minutes, we learn there is an electrical fault in the hero's London apartment, which leads to all the lights going out in the apartment and the building. However on stage, the whole action is brilliantly illuminated, even though the actors move around as if they were in complete darkness. When a match is lit, or a torch is switched on, then the stage lighting is actually dimmed.

 

Secondly, while the action of the play is taking place in a supposedly blackout situation, additionally there is a blackout of information, of people being kept in the dark about what is happening. This is due to the fact that our hero is trying to impress his girlfriend's father that he is a suitable husband for her, and thus he has secretly borrowed high quality furniture from his neighbour, so as to make his own flat look smarter. At the same time, as he is a budding sculptor, he is awaiting the arrival of a rich art collector, in the hope of making a sale of his work. However, the neighbour, the father, the ex-mistress, the electrician and the art collector all arrive more or less simultaneously, to create the usual hilarious farcical chaos. This is a one act farce, and like all farce, is delivered at high speed, and with precise timing.

 

Do please join us, for a fun evening on Monday, June 20, which is not only the Summer Solstice, but also a night of full moon.....

 

All are welcome whether you wish to read or just listen.

 

Facilitator: Mr Julian Quail.

May
16
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAY-READING WITH THE FRINGE

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Five Finger Exercise” by Peter Shaffer

 

Peter Shaffers first major success, Five Finger Exercise, came in 1958 at Londons Comedy Theatre and placed him firmly within the chronology of the New Drama then sweeping the British stage. Though not as unconventional in subject matter or as influential in defining the shift from the drawing room to the row house as John Osbournes Look Back in Anger (1956), Shaffers play nevertheless established him as a fresh voice and set a course for more challenging work. Subsequent transatlantic and worldwide successes included The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964), Equus (1973) and Amadeus (1984). Five Finger Exercise is a clever and symbolic reference to a piano exercise for pianists. The play has five characters that must exorcise their conflicts, and piano music is used throughout to underscore and punctuate dramatically heightened moments. Shaffer has admitted the autobiographical nature of the play, stating in the preface to his collected plays that it expressed a great deal of my own family tensions and also a desperate need to stop feeling invisible.

 

The play focuses on the Harrington family, who are spending a holiday together in their cottage in Suffolk, England. The snobbish mother, Louise, imagines herself as something of a Parisian aristocrat; the self-made man father, Stanley, has provided a good life for himself and his family with his success in furniture production; their sensitive son, Clive, about to leave for college, drinks too much, and is looking for direction; the fourteen-year-old daughter, Pamela, is bright, articulate and precocious. The four family members are complemented by fifth character in the shape of a young German music tutor, Walter, employed by the parents to teach Pamela to play piano. Walter acts as a catalyst for the family in facing up to their emotional and psychological problems and working out their suppressed resentment toward one another. However, charming, courteous and attractive as he seems to the liberal-minded Harrington family, Walter himself is dealing with the problem of knowing that his parents supported Hitlers rise to power in the 1930s. The play thus explores domestic relations through a musical trope; Shaffer, whose first job was working for a music publisher, was knighted in recognition of his achievements in English language drama and celebrated his 90th birthday this year.

 

All are welcome whether you wish to read or just listen.

 

Facilitator: Mr Julian Quail.

Apr
23
7:00 pm19:00

An ESU Shakespeare Dinner Evening

  • The Helena May Club

Individual Seats: HK$550 ESU Members; HK$650 Non-Members

 

Bookings Open Now!

 

Speaker: Mr David BOOTH

 

Mr. David Booth has been a student of theatre, particularly Shakespearean theatre, for over 50 years. An Architectural career in acoustics and theatre design has been accompanied by active participation in theatre performance, playing many of the roles in the Shakespearean canon, as well as in stage design and play Direction. In his talk last year he ‘took a leaf from the book’ of an actor in one of his past productions, Miss Kate Adie, and a speech she gave on “Journalism in the Media”, and talked mostly about himself. This option is not quite so relevant in this most important Shakespeare year. Other plans are afoot.

 

The English-Speaking Union (Hong Kong) is a registered, non-profit educational charity whose Office-holders and Volunteers donate their time and expertise.

 

Do come and join us at this unique Shakespeare evening!

Apr
18
7:15 pm19:15

ESU PLAY-READING WITH THE FRINGE

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer

(Reading to be accompanied by relevant Mozart music)

 

Amadeus, written by British playwright Peter Shaffer and premiered at the National Theatre in 1979, blends fiction and history to showcase the final years of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life. The play’s narrative voice is that of Antonio Salieri, an older composer and contemporary of Mozart, who, driven by jealousy, plots the tragic downfall of his supremely gifted rival. It suggests that Salieri, whose own star had faded as Mozart’s began to burn brightly, engineered the premature death of one of the greatest musical prodigies of all time. Despite the abiding rumours of foul play, most historians subscribe to the more realistic notion that Mozart died of rheumatic fever. Shortly after Mozart's death in 1791, rumours spread that the young genius was perhaps poisoned by an enemy. In the 1800s, Russian playwright Aleksandr Pushkin wrote a one-act play, Mozart and Salieri reworking the rumours into a psychologically intense drama, which served as a primary source for Shaffer's play, In both plays the motor for Salieri’s veiled hostility toward Mozart is represented as professional jealousy: the latter is a former child prodigy and possesses seemingly effortless genius, whereas Salieri himself has struggled hard to achieve success at a cost, despite making a bargain with God that he would worship him in his compositions, if God were to grant that he might become a famous composer.  The decisive factor in the play is that Mozart's genius is seen by Salieri as God's way of ultimately mocking his own more pedestrian gifts. Dramatist Shaffer skilfully presents Mozart as an immature joker and capricious dilettante one moment, and a sublime artist in thrall to his Muse the next. Amadeus is one of the greatest stage drama rivalries in the repertoire, full of contrasting exchanges and monologues that bring out both the levity and the soulful magnificence of Mozart and Salieri’s burning resentment which culminates in a dramatically ironic conclusion.

 

Below is a link to a Youtube clip from the National Theatre production with the great Paul Scofield in the role of Salieri:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rvPIjzp9NPc

 

All are welcome whether you wish to read or just listen.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Mar
30
7:15 pm19:15

ESU Play-Reading with the Fringe

  • The HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer

 

Amadeus, written by British playwright Peter Shaffer and premiered at the National Theatre in 1979, blends fiction and history to showcase the final years of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life. The play’s narrative voice is that of Antonio Salieri, an older composer and contemporary of Mozart, who, driven by jealousy, plots the tragic downfall of his supremely gifted rival. It suggests that Salieri, whose own star had faded as Mozart’s began to burn brightly, engineered the premature death of one of the greatest musical prodigies of all time. Despite the abiding rumours of foul play, most historians subscribe to the more realistic notion that Mozart died of rheumatic fever. Shortly after Mozart's death in 1791, rumours spread that the young genius was perhaps poisoned by an enemy. In the 1800s, Russian playwright Aleksandr Pushkin wrote a one-act play, Mozart and Salieri reworking the rumours into a psychologically intense drama, which served as a primary source for Shaffer's play, In both plays the motor for Salieri’s veiled hostility toward Mozart is represented as professional jealousy: the latter is a former child prodigy and possesses seemingly effortless genius, whereas Salieri himself has struggled hard to achieve success at a cost, despite making a bargain with God that he would worship him in his compositions, if God were to grant that he might become a famous composer.  The decisive factor in the play is that Mozart's genius is seen by Salieri as God's way of ultimately mocking his own more pedestrian gifts. Dramatist Shaffer skilfully presents Mozart as an immature joker and capricious dilettante one moment, and a sublime artist in thrall to his Muse the next. Amadeus is one of the greatest stage drama rivalries in the repertoire, full of contrasting exchanges and monologues that bring out both the levity and the soulful magnificence of Mozart and Salieri’s burning resentment which culminates in a dramatically ironic conclusion.

 

 

All are welcome whether you wish to read or just listen.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Feb
15
7:15 pm19:15

ESU Play-Reading with the Fringe

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Round and Round the Garden” by Alan Ayckbourn

 

This month’s play-reading is Alan Ayckbourn’s farcical domestic comedy, Round and Round the Garden taken from his popular trilogy, The Norman Conquests, a trio of comic plays written in 1973 and adapted for television. There are only six characters, namely Norman, his wife Ruth, her brother Reg and his wife Sarah, Ruth's sister Annie, and Tom, Annie's next-door-neighbour. The plays are at times wildly comic and at times poignant in their portrayals of the relationships among the six characters. Each of the plays depicts the same six characters over the same weekend in a different part of a house. Table Manners is set in the dining room, Living Together in the living room, and Round and Round the Garden in the garden, not surprisingly. Each play is self-contained, and they may be watched in any order. Some of the scenes overlap, and on several occasions a character's exit from one play corresponds with an entrance in another. The story centres on an extended family of two sisters and an older brother and their significant (or insignificant!) others.  Annie, the youngest of the three, still lives at home tending to an elderly, bedridden mother we never see. The action begins when Sarah and Reg (Annie's older brother) arrive to give Annie the chance to escape for the weekend for a long-needed rest. Fireworks begin almost immediately when Annie tells Sarah she is going away with her sister's husband, Norman. That pretty much sets the tone for the evening: an extended family whose members simultaneously despise each other and can't get enough of each other. The central figure is Norman, who needs desperately to be needed - by anyone. It's almost hard to blame him, too, once you meet his wife, Ruth, a career-obsessed woman with little apparent need for Norman. In Table Manners the farcical ‘dirty weekend’ in which the whole family meets up unexpectedly at Annie’s house, Norman’s plans to seduce Annie are foiled. In Round and Round the Garden Norman shows up at the garden of the house, hiding in the bushes, and before he can signal to Annie to leave, he is spotted and has to pretend he's come to visit. Tom pops round for food, and Norman's wife, the cool and tough Ruth, comes to visit their querulous Mother.  In the garden, Norman tries to spirit Annie away once more, while Reg and Tom speculate on who Norman has now as his "bit on the side," and Ruth sunbathes. Will peace ever return to the garden? There was a very successful revival of the trilogy at London's Old Vic Theatre in 2008 followed by a Broadway production in 2009. Below is the TV adaptation link on YouTube for those who want to familiarise themselves with the play before we meet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GECP77TlTM 

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Jan
18
7:15 pm19:15

ESU Play-Reading with the Fringe

The Play this time:

“Table Manners” by Alan Ayckbourn,

from ‘The Norman Conquests’ trilogy

 

This month’s play-reading is Alan Ayckbourn’s farcical domestic comedy, Table Manners taken from the trilogy, The Norman Conquests. The latter is a trilogy of comic plays written in 1973 by Alan Ayckbourn, and the small scale of the drama is typical of Ayckbourn. There are only six characters, namely Norman, his wife Ruth, her brother Reg and his wife Sarah, Ruth's sister Annie, and Tom, Annie's next-door-neighbour. The plays are at times wildly comic, and at times poignant, in their portrayals of the relationships among the six characters. Each of the plays depicts the same six characters over the same weekend in a different part of a house. Table Manners is set in the dining room, Living Together in the living room, and Round and Round the Garden in the garden. Each play is self-contained, and they may be watched in any order. Some of the scenes overlap, and on several occasions a character's exit from one play corresponds with an entrance in another. The story centers on an extended family of two sisters and an older brother and their mates. Annie, the youngest of the three, still lives at home tending to an elderly, bedridden mother we never see. The action begins when Sarah and Reg (Annie's older brother) arrive to give Annie the chance to escape for the weekend for a long-needed rest. Fireworks begin almost immediately when Annie tells Sarah she is going away with her sister's husband, Norman. That pretty much sets the tone for the evening: an extended family whose members simultaneously despise each other and can't get enough of each other. The central figure is Norman, who needs desperately to be needed - by anyone. It's almost hard to blame him, too, once you meet his wife, Ruth, a career-obsessed woman with little apparent need for Norman. There was a very successful revival of the trilogy at London's Old Vic Theatre in 2008 followed by a Broadway production in 2009. We will lead the first play and if participants want to read more in the February play-reading options will be discussed including reading a selection of scenes from the other two plays, or alternatively one of the other two. For those interested in the play theme and wishing to do some advance preparation, the television adaptation of the play from 1977 can be seen on this YouTube link:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GECP77TlTM 

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Dec
10
7:00 pm19:00

ESU (HK) Annual Dinner with Talk by Prof. C F Lee Topic: "The Silk Road on Land & Sea - Historic Evolution & Future Prospects"

  • Shanghai Min

Topic: "The Silk Road on Land and Sea - Historic Evolution and Future Prospects"

The Silk Road has historically been a main route for Eurasian trade that has developed from land to sea over the past two thousand years. Understanding its historical evolution will allow us to better envision the future developments of the One Belt One Road initiative. Professor Lee will speak on this topic, reviewing archaeological findings and images of cultural relics and the importance and significance of the land and maritime Silk Road from the past to the present, as well as sharing his vision for the future development of the initiative.

 

HK$550 ESU Members

HK$650 Non-Members

Nov
16
7:15 pm19:15

ESU Play-Reading with the Fringe

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Hay Fever” by Noel Coward

 

Hay Fever Noel Coward’s break-through comedy, written in 1924 when the talented young man was just a struggling actor, brought him overnight recognition. It also proved to be one of his most popular and enduring comedies, and is still regularly performed all over the world today. Recently in 2012 there was revival in the Noel Coward Theatre in London, which celebrated the playwright and his work. It is often described as ‘a comedy of bad manners’, which is a clever reference to the original comedies of manners of earlier centuries, culminating in the witty 19th social comedies of Pinero and Wilde which clearly influenced Coward’s style and subject matter. Hay Fever is set in the hall of the Bliss family home. The eccentric Blisses—Judith, a recently retired stage actress, David, a self-absorbed novelist, and their two equally unconventional children— live in a world where reality slides easily into fiction. Upon entering this world, the unfortunate weekend guests—a proper diplomat, a shy flapper, an athletic boxer, and a fashionable sophisticate— are repeatedly thrown into melodramatic scenes wherein their hosts profess emotions and react to situations that do not really exist. The resulting comedic chaos ends only when the tortured visitors tip-toe out the door. The play is an inversion of the ‘house-guests from hell’ motif, because here it is the hosts themselves who behave abominably. Coward saw a re-run of the play in the early 1960s, and claimed at the time that he intended only to amuse the audience of his day, and cared little about posterity; nevertheless, he was evidently pleased that the simple dialogue in Hay Fever continued to be well-delivered and well-received half a century after it was first played on the London stage. 

 

Note: In medical terms hay fever is the common name for allergic rhinitis and is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, resulting in sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. If you want to find out why the play is entitled Hay Fever you should come along to the play-reading. All, readers and listeners, are welcome. The event is free, but attendees are requested to buy a drink and/or food at the bar. The Fringe Club makes no charge for us to run this event and this is the least we can do to thank them for their generosity in encouraging us to run the monthly event by providing a free venue for it.

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.

Oct
26
6:45 pm18:45

MEET AT THE ESU Topic: "Teaching English in a War Zone - Afghanistan"

  • Aston Education

Speaker: Mr Lucas KOHNKE, HK Polytechnic University

 

·   Certificates will be awarded for Continuous Professional Development credits.

 

You are invited to join our ESU (HK) monthly gathering! All are welcome!

 

Some expatriate EFL teachers working in Afghanistan are drawn by the sense of adventure that surrounds the country. They may have been attracted by online job postings or by word of mouth recommendation by colleagues. The salary on offer is often a large part of anyone’s decision to go there too. With salary figures often two to three times higher than those offered back home, at least for example in the USA, plus the allure of paying few or no taxes, these teaching positions are extremely attractive for the new teacher or mid-career professional.

 

Working in Afghanistan as an expatriate EFL professional presents a unique set of challenges. The majority of these problems arise from the military and political conflicts present, and from clashes in expectations about the living, working and classroom environment (Armstrong, 2006).  This talk will examine these spheres in turn and explore ways in which these intersecting expectations can be exploited for both the personal and professional growth of the teachers and positive educational outcomes for the students.

 

Mr Lucas Kohnke is an instructor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interest includes professional development (blended learning/ e-learning), leadership in language education and intercultural communication.

 

Donations: ESU Members HK$80; Non-Members: $95;

Full-time Students up to age 24: $25

Free for New ESU Members

Oct
24
9:30 am09:30

ESU (HK) Speech Festival Course 2015

  • Aston Education

Session 3

Solo Dramatic Performance, Dramatic Scenes, Shakespeare Monologue. Thematic Group Speaking.

Public-Speaking Solo, Public-Speaking Team.

Tutor: Mr Daniel Bird

Fee: HK$200

Enquiries: Email: esuhk@netvigator.com  Tel: 2186-8449 (M-F am only)

Oct
19
7:15 pm19:15

ESU/FRINGE PLAY-READING

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Charley’s Aunt” by Brandon Thomas

Im no ordinary woman (Babbs)

 

Jack Chesney and Charley Wykeham, two undergraduates at Oxford University, are in love--Jack with Kitty Verdun, ward of Stephen Spettigue the Oxford solicitor, and Charley with Amy Spettigue, the solicitors niece. However, neither knows quite how to express his love to his girluntil Jack comes up with a plan: It just so happens that Charleys aunt, a wealthy widow from Brazil (where the nuts come from) is visiting that very day. So, why not have a luncheon for the girls and Charleys aunt? Charley has reservations, but finally consents and the invitations are sent to the girls. Then, to top off the plans, the two students decide to invite their aristocratic classmate, Lord Fancourt Babberley (Babbs) to entertain Charleys aunt, while they entertain their girls. Babbs, however, is not entirely keen on the idea. All plans go awry when the aunt, Donna Lucia d Alvadorez, telegraphs that she wont be arriving for a few more days. Without the aunt as chaperone, Charley and Jack quickly realise the girls wont come to lunch. A crazy solution presents itself, however, when Babbs enters wearing a female costume he is trying on for the upcoming theatrical review. Jack immediately seizes him and calls him Charleys aunt, just as the girls arrive at the door and are let in. Babbs, not at all used to this new role, is suddenly forced to masquerade as the doting aunt from Brazil. Comic confusion reigns supreme in the ensuing two acts of this hilarious 1895 farce.

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitator: Mr Julian Quail

Oct
10
9:30 am09:30

ESU (HK) Speech Festival Course 2015

  • Aston Education

Session 1

Solo Prose Speaking, Solo Prose Reading.  Dramatic Duologue.

Tutor: Mr Daniel Bird

Fee: HK$200

Enquiries: Email: esuhk@netvigator.com  Tel: 2186-8449 (M-F am only)

Sep
21
7:15 pm19:15

ESU Play-Reading with the Fringe

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde

 

This is Oscar Wilde’s most famous and often staged play, and the one that was being performed to critical acclaim and commercial success in London when Wilde’s life suddenly took a downward turn. His trial, public disgrace and subsequent prison sentence signalled the end of a brilliant and all too short-lived career. In this lightheartedly satirical comedy, however, there is no hint of the author’s own personal tragedy waiting 'in the wings.' The plot is delightfully contrived in the comic plot tradition. But Wilde’s epigrammatic humour, frequently based on the mischievous inversion of snobbish received ideas and clichés in his class-ridden society, retains its power to amuse and entertain. His farcical plot, concocted during a weekend break in Brighton and inspired by recent news events, is as follows: two young gentlemen living in 1890's England use the same pseudonym ("Ernest") on the sly, which is fine until they both fall in love with different women using that name, leading to a comedy of mistaken identities. Whenever Jack Worthing slips away to London from his Hertfordshire estate he says he is going to see his (fictitious) wayward brother ‘Ernest’. Once there, he maintains his incognito identity by calling himself Ernest - fortunately, as the object of his romantic interest, Gwendolen, declares to him she could only love a man named Ernest. Her cousin Algernon (Algy) is the one person who knows Jack's secret, and one day he travels down to Jack's estate in the country, announcing himself to Jack's attractive ward Cecily as his bad brother Ernest. Cecily is much taken with him and with his name, so on Jack's return home and Gwendolen’s unexpected arrival it becomes clear there are both too many and too few Ernests earnestly courting their respective beloveds. At this point both ‘Ernests’ are shamed when their deceptions are uncovered by the ladies, thereby threatening prospects for connubial bliss. When Algernon’s fierce and extremely snobbish Aunt Agatha (Lady Bracknell) arrives and expresses her snobbish disapproval of both Jack and Cecily the romantic pursuits and hopes of all four are seriously threatened. However Wilde's play was written as an improbable comedy, so - in sharp contrast with Wilde’s own life - surely things must work out happily? Come to the reading and find out!

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitators: Julian Quail and Mike Ingham.

Sep
8
6:45 pm18:45

MEET AT THE ESU "Shakespeare in China. How I Became a Shadow?"

  • The Boys' & Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong

Speaker: Mr Frank LEE

 

·               A story about a poet who made Shakespeare known in China and died doing so…

·               A story about Zhu Shenghao…

·               A story about How I Became A Shadow?

·               A STORY THAT HAS NEVER BEEN TOLD!

 

 

◊   Who wanted to tell the Chinese what’s important in the plays of Shakespeare, the characters and the roles?…

◊    Who lived a wonderful life before he came to know Shakespeare?...

◊    Who, out of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, translated 32?…

◊    Who started work on Shakespeare’s plays when he was 25 and died at the age of 32?…

◊    Who fought the occupation army with a pen, a dictionary and a play by Shakespeare’s?…

◊    Whose contributions have not been recognized till today?…

 

You are invited to join our ESU (HK) monthly gathering! All are welcome!

 

Mr Frank Lee served multinational corporations in information technology for 28 years, including Hewlett Packard, Tektronix, Apollo Computer and Silicon Graphics.  He executive produced SONS OF CUBA documentary that won 14 international awards, SCROOGE’S NEW YEAR stage play in Beijing and THIRTY-SEVEN, a feature film released in 2012.  Frank is founder of New Experience Toastmasters in Shenzhen (2004) and Hong Kong (2014), he also co-founded China Windmill Foundation that provides clean water to poor farming villages.

 

·                Certificates will be awarded for Continuous Professional Development credits.

Donations: ESU Members HK$80; Non-Members: $95;

Full-time Students up to age 24: $25

Free for New ESU Members

Aug
17
7:15 pm19:15

ESU Play-Reading with the Fringe

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“Top Girls” by Caryl Churchhill

 

Top Girls is a 1982 play by British socialist-feminist playwright, Caryl Churchill. Its protagonist is Marlene who runs a successful employment agency for women called Top Girls. Marlene is portrayed as a career-driven woman only interested in success. In the famous opening scene, she hosts a dinner party for a group of famous women from history. As the play unfolds we find Marlene has left behind her 'poor' earlier life, and illegitimate child, Angie, with her sister Joyce, in order to climb the professional ladder without any encumbrances. The play is contemporary and examines the role of women in society and what being a successful woman means. In this, one of her most famous and critically acclaimed plays, Churchill raises critical questions of universal cultural, social and political relevance. As well as presenting gender and feminist issues that were pertinent in the midst of the Thatcherite economic revolution in this work she continues to explore other significant themes - the commodification of manpower under the capitalist economy, the exploitation of women and ethical issues involved in rapid technological advancement. Churchill doesnt impose her answer or conclusion on her audiences but rather in a Brechtian epic theatre style, she invites us to critique Marlenes actions through the prism of the historical experiences of women in society and the sacrifices that her independent women heroines who attend her surreal party in Act One, have had to make for their independence and success. Marlene, the tough career woman, is portrayed as soulless, exploiting other women and suppressing her own caring side in the cause of material success. The play argues against the trend of feminism that simply turns women into alternative patriarchs, arguing instead for the kind of feminism where women's instinct to care for the weak and downtrodden is more important. In sharp contrast to Marlenes fantasies about herself as a successful woman, Churchills play doesnt offer any surreal fantasy as an easy solution to the characters everyday life problems. Rather, she poses a vital social and political conundrum for audiences to reflect on, one that she hopes will activate their critical conscience.  This is a play that has as many resonances for todays Hong Kong as for the Thatcher era in the UK.

 

Facilitators: Naomi Lawrence and Mike Ingham.

Jun
15
7:15 pm19:15

ESU Play-Reading with the Fringe

  • HK Fringe Club

The Play this time:

“The Imaginary Invalid (Le Malade Imaginaire) by Molière

 

The Imaginary Invalid (Le malade imaginaire) is a three act comedy-ballet by the French   playwright Molière with dance sequences and musical interludes by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. It premiered on 10 February 1673 in Paris and was originally choreographed by Pierre Beauchamp. The play is also known as "The Hypochondriac", an alternative translation of the French title. Molière had fallen out with the powerful court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, with whom he had pioneered the comédie-ballet form a decade earlier, and had opted for the collaboration with Charpentier. "Le malade imaginaire" would turn out to be Molière's last work. He collapsed during his fourth performance as Argan on 17 February and died soon after.

 

Argan is the worst sort of hypochondriac. Each day sees him trying some sort of new drug, and as a result the doctor and the apothecary can exist almost exclusively on their profits from Argan. Toinette, his maidservant, is certain that there is absolutely nothing the matter with her master, but she tries in vain to persuade him not to worry about his health. He refuses to listen to her, determined to be an invalid. He is encouraged in his supposed illness by his doctor and by Béline, his second wife, who uses his weakness to further her schemes to get his money. Because the law says that a second wife cannot inherit, it is essential to Béline that Argan make a settlement on her while he still lives. To that end also she tries to get him to place his two daughters in a convent, so that they cannot interfere or claim money for themselves. The plot is a typical Molière intrigue involving scheming and domestic conflict and, especially, ridiculous exaggerated behaviour based on the bourgeois social types that Molière loved to satirise. The play is being performed this year in HK in Cantonese for Le French May, so this is a good opportunity to read it and familiarise ourselves with Molière's timeless comedy.

 

Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.

 

Facilitator: Mr Julian Quail