STEAMING (in Cantonese)

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 12:00am

This production rocked. Literally. We were asked not to stand up at any point during the performance. The ground would move, an usher warned. Some of us did not quite know what he meant until, after the lights dimmed, we felt a jolt and the packed audience stand revolved 360 degrees before rattling to a halt.

In the course of the next two hours, we would swirl forward and backward to catch the action on the ring-like stage.

Unfortunately, this unusual set design is probably the most exciting feature of Theatre Space's adaptation of Nell Dunn's Steaming.

The play, which premiered in London two decades ago, is set in a Turkish bath where six women from different backgrounds meet regularly to bare their souls to one another. The original West End version is also remembered for its exposure of the flesh, too.

'Nudity' is not an issue in Hong Kong. The problem of this production, directed by Jacob Yu Chun-kau, lies with the characterisation - or the lack of it - of the six female roles. There is the sexually liberated Josie (played by Chan Hei-lee), who desperately wants to break up her relationship with her abusive boyfriend but cannot bring herself to live without a man, or the financial security that comes with the relationship.

There is Nancy (Cheng Chi-chee), the bored, but rich, divorced housewife who has yet to figure out her sexuality; and there is the ambiguous love-hate relationship between Meadow (Gladys Liu Suk-fun) and her mildly mentally retarded daughter Dawn (Man Sze-man).

Yet their inner struggles, or feelings, did not come through, which left the audience guessing. The emotional scene in which Josie unloaded her bottled up anger on to Nancy lacked spark. The remaining roles Violet (Chan Kwai-fun) and Jane (Leung Tsui-san) failed to stand out.

To be fair, this is a difficult play for a relatively young cast. Its flow was also disrupted every time the audience stand rattled into action between the scenes.

Sept 2, 3pm and 8pm; Sept 3, 3pm, Cultural Activities Hall, Tuen Mun Town Hall. $130 Urbtix