L'Empereur du Chant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2006, 12:00am

L'Empereur du Chant

Theatre Ensemble

Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

Reviewed: May 20

One of the most rapturously received set-pieces in L'Empereur du Chant is when director/actor Jim Chim Sui-man delivers a classic 1970s Chinese pop hit with deliberately badly translated English lyrics. As if the gag - which lasted for the song's entire three minutes - hadn't been flogged enough, Chim does it again, leading the audience in a sing-along.

They lapped it up, but the episode speaks volumes about the inanity that permeates L'Empereur du Chant. Perhaps fearing that his previous offering, Man of La Tiger, was too introspective, Chim unleashed three hours of trademark stuff, driven mainly by impersonations.

Interspersed were sporadic monologues in which Chim attempted ironic comments about Hong Kong's music industry - after all, the aim of L'Empereur is said to be 'social commentary' rather than merely entertainment.

One of the key themes in L'Empereur is how karaoke culture and pop-idol contests illustrate a lack of originality - pretty rich, given that Chim's performance amuses most by impersonation.

Stating the obvious about the vulgarities of mass culture makes for empty satire. The show flip-flops from one topic to another, the incoherence betraying an unwillingness to make a stand about issues in a wider social context. And with his focus on repetitive body contortions, Chim risks his artistic credibility.

Still, given the reception on opening night, it's unlikely that L'Empereur's invisible couture will be exposed any time soon.