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What to See at This Year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival

By Amanda Sheppard 17 January 2019
March Mayhem is soon to ensue – and with it, everything that the city’s arts community and visiting international talent has to offer. But if you’re eager to fill your cultural calendar ahead of time, then you’re in luck. The Hong Kong Arts Festival launches on February 21 and closes on March 23. This year’s festival includes 166 performances from over 1,700 performers. We've put together a list of must-see performances and events taking place during the festival, that you're going to want to buy tickets for.

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Maron Alsop with the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra

Six years ago, Maron Alsop became the first woman to ever conduct the BBC's Last Night of the Proms. Since then, she has further established herself as a leading conductor in Latin America. On February 21 and 22, Alsop and the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra will perform at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, with highlights including a solo performance by acclaimed violinist, Ning Feng, and a very personal tribute to Alsop's mentor, Leonard Bernstein.

Gangsters of Hong Kong

As one of this year’s fastest-selling programmes, Gangsters of Hong Kong is set in 1970s Sham Shui Po, following three young men whose lives lead them in remarkably different directions. Years later – now retired – the journalist, triad, and policeman reconnect, recalling their experiences and shedding light on an element of Hong Kong history that is rarely discussed.

Nice 'N' Easy

Three-time Grammy Award winner Thomas Quasthoff is an acclaimed German bass-baritone singer. With Nice 'N' Easyhe makes his Hong Kong debut after a recent return to the stage from retirement back in 2002. On March 14 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, he is set to perform chart-topping jazz classics including Summertime, Imagine, and Cry Me a River, alongside fellow vocalists Frank Chastenier, Dieter Ilg, and Wolfgang Haffner.

Chekhov’s First Play

The Russian playwright’s first script was uncovered in 1921, though without its opening page, it was rendered ‘unstageable’. Irish theatre troupe Dead Centre have delved where none have previously been willing to go, bringing Chekhov's First Play to life. From March 8 to 10, audience members will each be given a set of headphones, gaining insight into the staging process through the director’s instructions, and witnessing a play-by-play of the production process.


Acclaimed Canadian playwright, actor, and director Robert Lepage (of the production company Ex Machina), stars in a solo performance centred around memory, identity, and the importance of socio-cultural history. Taking place on a revolving state, 887 is named after the address of his former childhood home in Quebec.

The Nature of Forgetting

This critically acclaimed theatrical production is told through the mediums of mime, dance, and physical theatre. The Nature of Forgetting follows 55-year-old Tom’s nostalgic trip through his life as he reflects on his birthday. The production is a collaboration between Theatre Re, neuroscientists, and the Alzheimer’s Society.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Following the Royal Shakespeare Company’s commissioning project to translate the playwright’s notable works, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark will be staged in Hong Kong in Mandarin. The production is led by director Lu Liuyi, who staged a sell-out run of King Lear just last year.

The Nutcracker

This year marks the fourth festival appearance for the Hamburg Ballet. Proving that The Nutcracker isn’t limited to the confines of the festive season, the troupe bring Tchaikovsky’s music to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre from March 13 to 15, with choreographer John Neumeier's adaptation paying homage to Pepita’s seminal choreography.

Beethoven Project

With Neumeier at the helm once again, the Hamburg Ballet brings the late composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s masterpieces to life. The production premiered two years ago, in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Accompanied by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Beethoven Project will be performed on March 19 and 20.

£¥€$ (LIES)

Co-produced by Belgian theatrical collective Ontroerend Goed, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and Macau Arts Festival, £¥€$ (LIES) is a theatre experience unlike any other. Ticket holders are invited to take a seat at a gambling table, where the croupier talks them through the process of starting a bank. Taking place from March 12 to 24, the interactive experience questions who will be willing to roll the dice, and who the real winners are in the global financial system.
For more information about this year's programme, visit the Hong Kong Arts Festival website.
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Amanda Sheppard

Senior editor

Following a brief and bitterly cold stint in Scotland, Amanda returned to Hong Kong—a place she’s called home for over 18 years—to begin her career as a writer. She can often be found getting lost somewhere very familiar, planning her next holiday, and enjoying a cup (or three) of good, strong coffee.