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But her art is not just a platform for Lai to express herself – she also sees it as a way to address social concerns.

Her acclaimed short film, 1+1, tells the story of how the Express Rail project affected the daily life of an elderly man and his granddaughter living in the now demolishedChoiYuenVillage.

Lai’s concern about social issues took root during her student days. When her class was asked to hand in a video assignment, many students chose to portray their family because it would be easy. She chose to make a video about prostitution.  Her teachers opposed her project and refused to lend her any equipment for the sake of her own safety and that of the gear. Undeterred, Lai borrowed a camera from a professor and shot the sex workers anyway. Her persistence paid off – the assignment was given high marks and was screened in two overseas film festivals.

On one occasion, Lai skipped lessons for two months during the school term and travelled toCubajust to do research for a video project and drama about the Legislative Councillor Leung Kwok-hung. “A professor even called to ask if I had dropped out from school because of my absence,” laughs Lai.

Her dedication and enthusiasm won her the title of one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in 2012. She was one of the few who were awarded as representatives from the drama field. Lai realised that most of the other awardees were pop stars and she decided to accept the award to help redefine what an outstanding young person could be.

At the prize-giving ceremony, Lai made the anti-national education cross sign and presented a Pinocchio doll to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. The Pinocchio doll implied that Leung was a liar. “Many said I was bold to make the [cross] sign. Incorrect. It wasn’t bold, it was the right thing to do,” says Lai.

As an artist and as an activist, Lai defines her stance this way: “I’ve been successful, I have failed. But I have never given up.” With film projects and exhibitions in the works, Lai admits she will have less time for the theatre. “I will never quit drama,” she stresses. ‘‘Theatre is my starting point, I would never forget it.’’

Lai might have encountered many losses in her life, but the theatre rewards her with friendships, with dreams and with a career.

“It’s my breath, my life,” says Lai.

Edited by Derek Li