The story of Hong Kong under Japanese rule is one that most of the countries involved would prefer to forget – but which the world should always remember.
For Britain is was a humiliating defeat, for Japan it was an episode of grim brutality and Mainland China has little enthusiasm for tales that underline Hong Kong’s past outside its control.
This Saturday sees the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, when Imperial Japan surrendered and World War II finally came to an end.
To mark the occasion Army@TheVirtualFringe will stream Bill Aitchison and Indy Lee’s It Won’t Be Long Now which tells the stories of Commonwealth POWs enduring the harsh conditions of an internment camp, and of the ordinary Hong Kong residents facing their own multitude of challenges on the other side of the barbed wire.
The play was originally supposed to be performed on stage as part of the annual Army@TheFringe events which are part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Covid-19 led to the creation of the three-week online Army@TheVirtualFringe (with more than 40 free readings, performances, screenings, discussions and workshops) which features a specially filmed two-handed version.
Bill said: “None of the major parties involved, the British, Japanese and Chinese have any great desire to recall this troubled time so it has been allowed to slowly fade.
“Only, it seems, in Hong Kong where there is a renewed desire to preserve local history and maintain a distinct identity, is there a sense of this story being important.”
Bill plays the Allied POWs and Indy Lee tells the story of ordinary Hong Kongers.
While Indy goes into the complexities and brutalities of occupation he also shares the story of a Japanese priest who showed great courage – smuggling medicine into the camps.
Bill, whose father was in the Royal Corps of Transport, said: “When I read the POWs’ first-hand accounts of prison camp life, I realised there were many incredibly powerful stories. When up against it, these men were resourceful, disciplined and got through it with a constant stream of humour.
“It was sobering to learn there were a great many men who did not make it through; conditions were squalid, disease was rife, food woefully insufficient and forced labour took its toll. Yet in the face if this they preserved their humanity and their waiting did come to an end.
“These stories of endurance and optimism are worth remembering. They show us that our beliefs make a difference, that we are stronger when we work together and that we can learn valuable lessons from this experience.”
- It Won’t Be Long Now is being streamed on Army@TheVirtualFringe channels on Saturday, 15 August at 2pm – it’s free to watch click here for details www.armyatthefringe.org/virtual/it-wont-be-long-now.
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- Army@TheFringe was established to present a diverse programme of performances that tell stories of life in and out of uniform.
- It normally takes place at Hepburn House, an historic Army drill hall in Edinburgh’s New Town, which offers a variety of performance spaces, a relaxed and comfortable Mess Bar plus an Army Tuckshop.
Shows from past years
Army@TheFringe has a track record of presenting bold, high quality, independently produced performance art. Highlights last year included:
- Dead Equal: All-female opera performed by three world-class sopranos telling the forgotten true story of Flora Sandes, heroine of the Allied frontline in World War I.
- The Happiness Project: Queer theatre looking at the need for non-sexual physical contact in a digital age.
- Unicorns, Almost: Owen Sheers’ play about the poet Keith Douglas and his Faustian pact with war. Initially as an audio experience and then as a live performance.
The 2018 dance theatre production The Troth, from the Akademi, (★★★★★ Broadway Baby, ★★★★ Herald) won Herald Angel and Lustrum awards with its portrayal of the experiences of South Asian soldiers on the Western Front in World War I.
In 2017 5 Soldiers, from the Rosie Kay Dance Company, achieved huge critical acclaim with a string of ★★★★ and ★★★★★ reviews and went on to enjoy major national and international success.
For media information about Army@TheFringe contact Matthew Shelley at SFPR on 07786704299 or Matthew@ScottishFestivalsPR.Org