Staid ideas to munch on

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 June, 1998, 12:00am

JUST when you think there cannot possibly be another theatre show about 1997 or the handover, here we are with a fringe production that 'looks at Hong Kong nearly a year after the change of sovereignty'.

Given that Wednesday marks the first anniversary of the historic event, the timing of this show is only logical.

But what more is there to say about the handover that has not already been said by other theatre productions? Well, The Fringe Mime & Movement Lab manages 90 minutes of original material but with ideas that are hardly new.

Big Banquet is all about changes that have taken place in the SAR since last July. The show questions how Hong Kong will remain unchanged for 50 years when its people are constantly asked to strive hard to make the place better.

'Has our 'rose garden' become like a Titanic that carries us forward, whether or not we want to go?' the artists ask. 'Changes have overtaken us, and people around us have changed in unexpected ways. So, during this past year, who and what has changed?' Well, the Titanic did sink and the choice of this allegory sums up the piece's dark and ominous mood. The audience is asked: 'Now that Hong Kong has returned to China, how would you describe yourself?' I reply: 'Hong Konger', while the couple standing next to me opt for 'Chinese'.

The point of this exercise? To test whether locals feel more Chinese today perhaps? This is followed by a simple mime on the signing of the Joint Declaration and the first sketch of the evening that looks at Hong Kong people's worries.

So, what are our worries? A couple is having a sleepless night (and a troubled relationship?). A man and woman laugh and cry hysterically (as they watch the stock market?).

Another sketch is a satire on how the police drowned the noise of protesters on handover night. It suggests the authorities only want to listen to what they want to hear and dissidents' voices are best blocked out by Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

The Fringe Mime & Movement Lab also tackles issues such as the various health scares we have had over the past year and the identity crisis local people face.

While the group successfully blends its own miming styles into their acts and effectively conveys its messages, the six artists test the audience by repeating well-worn cliches.

Some of us have already seen topics such as the bird flu discussed in the theatre, and what has it to do with the handover? Theatre regulars would have seen similar shows that look at Hong Kong a year since the handover. Big Banquet is nowhere near as successful as, say, Something Strange In The Air by McMuiMui Dansemble (Abby Chan and Yeung Wai-mei) staged at the Arts Centre earlier this month.

Local artists must start coming up not only with new methods of expressing themselves, which The Fringe Mime & Movement Lab does well, but also fresh ideas.

BIG BANQUET The Fringe Mime & Movement Lab Fringe Club