Mo Lai Yan Chi wears many hats. She’s a university lecturer, actress on stage and screen known particularly for solo performances, playwright, producer, director, and founder of two independent theatre companies, FM Theatre Power and Mo Production Company Limited. She has produced numerous plays and documentaries, including the award-winning 1+1, about Hong Kong’s culture and livelihood.
This year, her latest one-woman play White Shadows produced in collaboration with Cinematic Theatre, which tells the history of Sham Shui Po through the perspective of three ghosts from different eras, has been selected in the San Francisco International Arts Festival, which takes place from October 20 to 24.
We asked Mo to tell us about how she manages her busy life and finds inspiration for her work.
Ideally, I’d love to wake up at 9.30am so that I can sleep in, but realistically speaking, my wake-up time varies from 6am to 11.30 am, depending on what time I sleep the night before or when I need to start work for the day. If I have a theatre or film project that day, I rush out of the door in ten minutes.
But if I don’t, I have an eventful morning routine that keeps my life full. I’m a freelancer, and I need to be disciplined and flexible. First, I start my day by making a nice coffee with my moka pot or phin filter while drafting my to-do list for the day. My 20 plants at home “have breakfast” before me. After watering them, it’s my turn. My favourite breakfast is a croissant or toast, an avocado, banana and blueberry smoothie and a cup of coffee.
Breakfast is followed by 30 to 60 minutes of an online French class over another coffee. I end my morning with yoga, listening to instrumental music and having 10 to 20 minutes of meditation. I love facing the mountain across from my window.
Lunchtime! My dietary preference is mainly vegetarian. If I am too busy to eat, a chocolate bar gives me enough energy until I have more time.
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My work in the afternoon varies between rehearsals, shooting a film, writing a script, teaching at university, and brainstorming new projects. Before arriving at any workspace, I usually take a few minutes on the bus or taxi to meditate so that I can concentrate.
I don’t have a fixed hour when I stop working. Sometimes, I work overnight to catch up with deadlines. My ideal night is to have piping hot claypot rice in Temple Street between Jordan and Yau Ma Tei, and then watch a movie at the arthouse cinema Broadway Cinematheque nearby, or attend a theatre show. Sometimes I go with friends, but I find doing these activities alone to be equally enjoyable. Moreover, they’re a good source of inspiration for new projects.
I may still be in the studio or wherever my project is taking place. Otherwise, I stay in my little heaven: home. Sometimes I treat myself to ice cream, a hot chocolate or chips, and then I watch movies or a Netflix series with French subtitles to practise my French. Who says entertainment can’t be education? If I’m tired of Netflix, I read a book. My go-to are Hayao Miyazaki’s films and I’m a fan of all French New Wave Directors. My favourite writers are Haruki Murakami and Albert Camus.
I usually fall asleep very easily after a long day of work. But if I still have energy, I will pick up a book. My recent bedtime read is Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.