Proud and loud
There's something eye-catching about 2onstage's new production, and it isn't just the camp promotional material. The self-proclaimed 'hottest gay musical in town' is a Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) presentation.
'There's always a first time for everything,' says playwright and director Pichead Amornsomboon. 'And maybe we can say it's about time for something like this.'
Co-written by Amornsomboon and fellow 2onstage founder, Tony Wong Lung-pun, Homo Superus examines different aspects of love and loneliness, but mainly questions social values and norms.
The show throws two opposite groups together, says Amornsomboon: those who deviate from, or even defy, social convention; and those who uphold what's socially acceptable.
'I thought it would be very interesting to place these groups side by side,' the 35-year-old says. 'This show is about social prejudice against not only homosexuals, but other groups who are culturally or religiously different.'
Homo Superus is hardly the first local theatre production with a strong gay theme. W Theatre, for instance, staged Queer Show in 2004 and, more recently, the musical Once in a Lifetime. But it's the first openly gay show to secure government sponsorship.
'They surprised me. They accepted the show straight away,' Wong says. 'They were really positive.'
When the LCSD approached 2onstage last year, the theatre group had already established a good reputation. Wong and Amornsomboon are Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts graduates and were members of Chung Ying Theatre Company between 1998 and 2001. In 2004, they found themselves performing together in a children's production called Hyper, and decided to form their own company.
At last year's Hong Kong Drama Awards, Amornsomboon was named best actor, and he and Wong shared best director for 2 of Us, a farce-cum-cabaret about conjoined twins who want to be separated.
Amornsomboon and Wong pride themselves on being experimental and open to new theatrical styles. So they were open to the idea of Homo Superus - and they love singing, dancing and acting. 'For me, a musical is very glamorous,' says Wong. 'It's very colourful. My instinct tells me this connects [with our style].'
And the art form fits the theme, says Amornsomboon. 'I don't know about Tony, but the form of musical, to me, is very gay. It's so glamorous, so theatrical.'
Although they usually work as a pair, they enlisted three other actors - Joe Wong, Man Kit Chung and Rex Kwok - for the show. Frankie Ho composed the score, and Renson Chan wrote the lyrics.
Two numbers have the same tune, highlighting the two aspects of love. 'It's the same song, but about two completely opposite situations,' says Amornsomboon. 'So, it's ironic.'
Although the theme of the show is gay, the pair say its musings about love apply to everyone. 'This show isn't just talking about gay people or straight people,' Wong says. 'It's talking about people.'
Amornsomboon says the message is universal. 'Life is very much like a kitchen, it's full of different tastes. It's the same for everyone.'
The musical has been so well received by audiences that the LCSD is extending its run with a further two performances.
Nonetheless, Amornsomboon says he looks forward to a time when there's no need to label a show as being gay. 'We don't put 'straight' in front of something - like, it's a straight musical, or it's a straight drama,' he says.
Wong says Hongkongers are becoming far more tolerant of homosexuality, although there's still a way to go. 'Chinese [society] is not very open,' he says. 'Some countries are more open - you can kiss in public. In Hong Kong, maybe you can't do that. You can't express your feelings.'
Homo Superus, Sept 13-16, 8pm, (Sept 15-16, 3pm also), Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre, East Kowloon, HK$100-HK$160. Inquiries: 2268 7323