Marjorie: Last century Hong Kong experienced quite a few instances of bubonic plagues, starting in the 1890s in Sheung Wan, an area of Hong Kong my sister lived in for 8 years. The wave we imagine that Wen recounts in the play was in 1929. The plagues also came with a complex handling that involved some brutal tactics, and mistrust of the populace of the colonial forces and Western medicine. It is entirely fascinating history but slightly outside the play. Wen and myself as the playwright acknowledge this.
However, even I was surprised to see how Wen described her time in her pandemic, as I begin revisiting the script during the pandemic. The words of a faraway time resonated with me, and although I was tempted to change this section of the text to remove these resonances, I left the similarities in. Because it did give me pause to consider a we continue to navigate the current global pandemic.
What is the emotional impact of loss we collectively experienced? Did we acknowledge the hurt or heal from it? Or did we try to carry on, and allow it to scab over, and perhaps fester, with trauma just waiting to reveal itself later?
The Year of the Cello is also perhaps thematically cautionary — revealing the impact of events when our emotions and experiences go unchecked and trauma unresolved.