Sunday, 25 April 2010

Back to School... After 20 Years

The year 2010 marks the 110th anniversary of St Mary's Canossian College, where I studied from Primary One to Form Six. Thanks to Mrs Lau Wu Siu-lan's help, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to A Midsummer Night's Dream, the English drama to celebrate the school's anniversary, staged at the school hall last night. Together with Patricia and Winnie there I returned after 20 years since graduation.

We arrived at school about 15 minutes before the drama commenced. We had a short walk in the tuck shop and the playground and were surprised to see that everything seemed shrunk. The ceiling of the tuck shop measures less than two metres and it was never high in my memory, but the crossbeams supporting the gymnasium above seem to be hitting my head at any time. I was only wearing my sneakers and couldn't help wondering if I have grown that much over the past 20 years, or my eyesight has been spoilt by tall and large, mammoth buildings.

There were many other changes to the campus too. The single-storey laboratories outside the tuck shop have been replaced by a new four-storey building. The outdoor badminton court that lied between the old laboratories has now become indoors under the four-storey building. The stone walls and the green gate leading towards Kimberley Road have been demolished and replaced by concrete. A high-rise building now stands where the primary school playground and sports warehouse was, housing more classrooms and function rooms. From my vivid memory, most of the vanished playground enjoyed the shelter of green foliage from the large crowns of old trees with stretching stems like a strong man's arms. Sadly most of the trees are now gone, and so are my good old days of childhood.

The drama was staged at the school hall on the second floor of the hall building. For some reason the staircase leading up to the first floor of the hall building seems incredibly shorter than what I could remember. When I first met Winnie when we were only Primary Two girls, we were playing rock-paper-scissors on the staircase. Every step took extra caution because I always felt I would have fallen from the top to the bottom, broke my skull and died otherwise.

Just like many other assemblies for important announcements and events, the school hall was filled with rows of neatly laid out seats. Again, to our surprise, the school hall was much smaller than we felt when we were young. When it seemed to take forever to reach our seats at examinations, it only took a dozen steps to reach our seats on the eighth row. Perhaps it is because we were no longer intimidated by school examinations when we have overcome many more challenges and detoured from deadlocks outside the campus throughout these years.

The drama was indeed enjoyable and not to be missed. The props were surprisingly sophisticated and I never knew these could have been possible in our humble school hall. It was also amazing to see how much the teenage girls behind us enjoy performing and producing and how far they can achieve. When I was at their age, the best thing I could do on stage was to play violin in a school orchestra. Of those, my two thumbs up for Frances Chan who played Bottom, one of the duke's servants to professional standards. She was simply gorgeous. Her resemblance to Beatrice Liu only adds to the amusement. Puke, the naughty little fairy who messes up the romances, should thank Kelly Leung for a remarkable performance. Don't forget that Frances is at Form Four and Kelly only Form Two!

After all, director and producer Geoff Oliver deserves the biggest credit to make this "dream" come true. He was an English teacher back in our time and the one who initiated drama productions for the school. Now the boss of a production house based in the United Kingdom, he is commissioned by the school to make the drama an annual specialty for many students, parents and past St Marians to look forward to. No wonder the teenage crews call him "Lo Ban" - "boss" in Cantonese. Without Mr Oliver, as we used to call him, we would never have the privilege of making our own productions. Oh yes, I was in the props team back in 1988 for Hansel and Gratel too.

I can't really remember when the last time I had such great laughter. It feels as if I have returned to the best time of my life sitting in the school hall and enjoying every moment with my best friends. I am thankful to the lovely girls and Mr Oliver to have delivered such a great performance, which I found even more enjoyable than some of the Arts Festival programmes this year. I am most grateful to the school that have shaped me who I am in the most important years of my life. I hope the programme and the souvenirs will help me keep the dream and fond memories alive.

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