To Kill Or Be Killed

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 September, 2000, 12:00am

In To Kill Or Be Killed, two assassins wait to fulfil their assignment in a lopsided flat. There are 90 minutes to go before their target arrives.

What do they do? Or in this case, what do they do to one another? Written by local playwright Poon Wai-sum, this Prospects Theatre production features two outstanding award-winning actors Anthony Wong and Tse Kwan-ho.

And what a fine performance both have put on for this black comedy about desperation and survival.

The 'organisation' has teamed up a veteran hitman, code-named North Vietnam (Wong), with newcomer South Vietnam (Tse) for a job. This is their first assignment together and neither is happy with the arrangement.

North Vietnam is a laid-back kind of killer who takes everything easily and calmly while South Vietnam is totally paranoid and does everything by the book. The tension between the two is almost palpable.

Then strange things start to happen. First South Vietnam finds a young woman (in the form of a rubber blow-up doll) stuffed inside a bag outside the room. Later, someone leaves a bunch of roses on the doorstep and, rather bizarrely, out of nowhere, a man places a breakfast tray in their bathroom and uses the toilet before he leaves.

As the mystery thickens, we begin to learn more about the men behind the shades and why they have turned to killing. North Vietnam, for instance, has been living with his mentally impaired brother for more than 30 years and the pain is driving him to total despair.

Directed by Lee Kwok-wai, To Kill Or Be Killed is the latest of Prospects Theatre's 'Insect Series' about the grass-roots society in Hong Kong. This piece of theatre has more to do with two men in desperation than glorifying the gangster underworld. The chemistry between the two actors sent sparks flying on stage and the audience rolling with laughter.

I had no idea you could swear in the many different ways and many different tones that Wong can. However, the hilarity of their performance sometimes overshadowed the more sober and sensitive moments of the play. And it is fair to say that without Wong and Tse, this script may not have taken off as well as it has.

To Kill Or Be Killed (in Cantonese), Shouson Theatre, Arts Centre, until October 8.



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