Ver­tigo who­dunit plays out on mean streets of Kowloon

Hong Kong cop tar­gets an un­touch­able sus­pect in cat-and-mouse crime thriller

Calgary Herald - - YOU - LOUIS B. HOBSON

In 1924, in the walled city of Kowloon, a no­to­ri­ous area of Hong Kong, a Jack the Rip­per-style mur­derer is mu­ti­lat­ing and killing young women.

Sergeant Tommy Lam was as­signed the case be­cause the first two vic­tims were Chi­nese, but the third is a priv­i­leged Euro­pean girl.

His su­pe­ri­ors want to turn the case over to Sean Heaney, a new de­tec­tive parachuted in from Scot­land, but Tommy is de­ter­mined to solve the case in the hope such a tri­umph might lead to a much de­served but long de­layed pro­mo­tion.

Tommy’s prime sus­pect is Vic­tor Fung, son of one of the wealth­i­est men in Hong Kong, which makes him al­most un­touch­able un­less Tommy has ir­refutable proof.

The world pre­miere of Nine Dragons, a cat-and-mouse who­dunit, comes to Ver­tigo Theatre as a joint ven­ture be­tween Ver­tigo, Win­nipeg’s Royal Man­i­toba Theatre Cen­tre and Rich­mond’s Gate­way Theatre.

Writ­ten by Gate­way’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Jo­vanni Sy and di­rected by Ver­tigo’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Craig Hall, Nine Dragons fea­tures John Ng as Tommy Lam, Daniel Chen as Vic­tor Fung and Toby Hughes as Heaney, with costars Natascha Gir­gis, Scott Bel­lis and Du­val Lang.

The thriller runs at Ver­tigo un­til Sept. 20 be­fore it moves on to Win­nipeg in Oc­to­ber and fi­nally to Rich­mond in April.

Toronto-based ac­tor John Ng was born in Kowloon back in the mid-1960s, but it was nei­ther the dan­ger­ously ser­pen­tine city-within-a-city of the 1920s or the mod­ern high­rise sub­urb of present-day Hong Kong.

“My fa­ther and mother fled from China to Hong Kong and ran a lit­tle food stall in Kowloon.

“We left Hong Kong in 1974 when I was eight-and-a-half years old. The first time I went back was in 2006. Kowloon had un­der­gone a to­tal trans­for­ma­tion. My old neigh­bour­hood was gone,” says Ng.

“Nine Dragons wouldn’t take place there to­day. It has to take place in the 1920s, when Kowloon was es­sen­tially a wild west fron­tier for the Euro­peans who had set­tled in Hong Kong. To them, the dan­ger that lurked in Kowloon made it a kind of wicked play­ground.”

Ng says his char­ac­ter, Tommy Lam, is a di­rect prod­uct of that city at that time.

“Tommy comes from a poor, work­ing-class district. He’s a very good de­tec­tive but he has to watch younger or less-ex­pe­ri­enced and less ca­pa­ble men get pro­moted be­cause of their so­cial class.

“At that time, the lo­cal Chi­nese of­fi­cers were paid one-10th of what the Euro­pean of­fi­cers were paid and the lo­cals were un­able to rise in the ranks. Tommy hopes that, by solv­ing these bru­tal mur­ders, he’ll fi­nally get the pro­mo­tion he de­serves.”

Like those of­fi­cers who rise above him, Tommy’s chief sus­pect, Vic­tor Fung, is priv­i­leged, hav­ing been raised in Eng­land.

“Vic­tor con­sid­ers him­self an English­man and he car­ries him­self like a Euro­pean. He doesn’t even speak any Can­tonese but he has a se­cret he needs to tell some­one and he de­cides that some­one is Tommy, which is why he be­friends ( him).”

Ng says this tricky re­la­tion­ship be­tween Tommy and Vic­tor is what makes Nine Dragons as much a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller as a who­dunit.

“The ac­tion of the play be­comes a psy­cho­log­i­cal duel be­tween Tommy and Vic­tor, the hunter and the hunted.”

Ng, who is cur­rently one of the stars of the CBC show Kim’s Con­ve­nience, grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa in 1995. He worked in fringe shows for 10 years while work­ing at the fam­ily’s restau­rant.

“In 2005, I fi­nally de­cided to be se­ri­ous about act­ing, so I went to Toronto and be­gan au­di­tion­ing.”

He was cast in a pro­duc­tion of The China Doll which he re­calls “put me on the radar in Toronto. This is also where I met Ins Choi, who wrote Kim’s Con­ve­nience. We were both start­ing out and he kept say­ing we should work to­gether.

“I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate work­ing on TV, but my first love is still the theatre, so I’m grate­ful and happy when a role like Tommy Lam comes my way.”

VER­TIGO THEATRE

John Ng plays Sergeant Tommy Lam, a Hong Kong cop hunt­ing a Jack the Rip­per-style killer.

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