Chaos and corruption
THE UNBEARABLE TWAIN (in Cantonese), Cultural Centre Studio Theatre, July 5 When Theatre Ensemble bounded on stage 21/2 years ago, they were already being hailed as one of the most innovative drama groups in the territory for their eclectic mixture of situational comedy and improvisation, as well as their dramatic elements.
With The Unbearable Twain, the group have outdone themselves in a tale about widespread corruption of the new world.
The first act opens with two hooded figures in the foreground and a disembodied voice castigating a couple of cockroaches for fouling up the place and laying eggs everywhere.
In a few minutes, we find out it is 'Detective Virtuous' (Lo Man-kit), who is scared to death of cockroaches, filth and the dark.
He has been on a 7,000-year quest to capture two renegades Dai-leung (Jim Chim) and Siu-leung (Olivia Yan). The names mean Big Virtue and Small Virtue respectively but put them together and they become chaos and corruption, a witty play on words.
The duo slip out of the detective's grip again and again as the chase takes them from Stone Age to modern day, where they have become a couple leading a cult which preaches the 'virtues' of greed, corruption and selfishness.
The good detective finally capitulates and uses foul means to achieve his ends and is destroyed by the knowledge that he is no more virtuous than the two he has sought for so long.
The appeal of The Unbearable Twain lies not so much in its humorous story and script, even though they are excellent, but in its vivid, creative and subtle presentation.
The actors are outstanding, in particular Yan who plays a myriad characters ranging from a young schoolgirl obsessed with television to an old shrew, all equally convincingly.
In the Stone Age scene, where the savages cannibalise each other, the actors speak gibberish, yet maintain a consistency throughout.
The wacky humour in the acting is enough to keep the audience enraptured. When they finally started speaking in Cantonese again, it was almost a shock to the ears.
The chase through the different ages is also portrayed imaginatively, taking little more than a few minutes and only sees the actors running off and on the stage.
But each time they appear on stage, they hold a more modern prop. For instance, the 'warriors' start off clubbing each other, and continue with swords and finally machine-guns.
If one had to pick out the most innovative aspect of the performance, it would be the lighting and sound effects.
Billowing smoke, lightning flashes and creative play of shadow and light all create the perfect atmosphere and makes the play all the more mesmerising.
The subject matter may be a sad testament of life today: that the virtuous are getting to be a minority because more are embracing the corruption that has filtered in because 'everyone else is doing it'.
But Theatre Ensemble could not have done it in a more interesting way.