Q&A: Jim Chim

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 January, 2011, 12:00am

Jim Chim Sui-man has brought his satirical comedy into the mainstream. A founder of Theatre Ensemble and PIP Theatre companies, the award-winning stage actor and director has created several hits, among them his 2005 one-man show Man Of La Tiger. The 45-year-old has also appeared in movies such as Men Suddenly In Black and Mighty Baby.

This month Chim will have to call on all his stage skills as he performs in another one-man show at the 12,500-seat Hong Kong Coliseum. He has laid the groundwork with an online clip promoting the show. Adapted from an Andy Lau song, I Don't Wanna Say Goodbye, Chim's rendition focuses of common gripes of Hong Kong people and has already received more than 1.3 million views so far.

What is your new one-man show about?

It's a milestone in my career. The Coliseum is a platform for singers. No theatrical artist has staged a show there. I've performed in large and small venues, almost all the theatres in Hong Kong. To me, it's important to perform before a larger audience.

I started to plan for this show in 2009. People might think I would adapt my previous productions such as Man Of La Tiger for the Coliseum. In fact, I've left that behind.

I'm not a typical performer for the Coliseum and that inspired the idea of Tek Koon. It literally means kicking the hall, but it also represents challenging the authorities, existing systems and traditional ideas. The show embraces energy, anger, sensation and emotion. It will tackle social phenomena such as resentment of the rich, the hectic lives of Hong Kong people and the outrageous real estate market.

The Coliseum is part of the collective memory of many Hong Kong people and is closely associated with pop music. I'll have fun in the show with the history of the Coliseum, some landmark moments and legendary singers who performed there.

I also want to go beyond theatre. This won't be a stage drama. It's a live show, full of interaction with the audience. It's a party, a celebration - and something close to Greek tragedy. It's very theatrical. I'm trying to bring a new experience and release Hong Kong people's anger and tension through the show.

Why did it take you two years to prepare for the show?

I didn't do it in 2009 because of the financial tsunami. I thought it wasn't the right time. In the past couple of years I've been thinking about the development of my company. To build a cultural corporation, you can't just produce show after show. I have my own concept about theatre. To me, it is a space with performers and audience. Therefore, the Coliseum is a theatre to me. People react differently at the Coliseum; they are more relaxed. When I'm performing in a traditional theatre venue, the audience tends to be more self-conscious.

Do you mind being compared with performers such as stand-up comedian Dayo Wong Chi-wah and radio DJ Jan Lamb Hoi-fong?

I've never worried about that. We know what our characters and specialities are. I can't do what Chi-wah can do. And if you ask me to do what Jan is doing, I might even go further. We all have different audiences. In this show, I want to break through and explore my potential as a performer. I hope the audience won't think of me as a theatre actor any more.

You've been visiting the mainland quite regularly. What are you doing there?

I want to enter the mainland market. I get the impression that Hong Kong is getting more conservative; security is what people want here. I know if I don't change I'll be conservative too. There are so many reasons for me to stay in Hong Kong. I've heard a lot of negative things about the mainland. But when I go to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, what I see is that the people are ambitious and are looking for improvement. They are eager to learn and change. The places are full of life and energy, which excites me. I want to bring something to my homeland, China. After the handover, I felt like I was returning to my origins.

I'll spend more time in Beijing and Shanghai after this show. The Central Academies of Drama in Beijing and Shanghai have invited me to be guest lecturer. I also want to host a master class to interact with graduates and professional actors. I'll collaborate with mainland director Ning Hao as an acting instructor for his new movie.

PIP Theatre has been operating independently since 2008. Is it hard to run the business without government funding?

The major burden is not money, but concepts. In the past, I had to be based in the Hong Kong Arts Centre to tell people that I was serious about the arts. Five years later, I realised I didn't need to tell people that what I was doing was art. I aspire to infuse art into life and make it more accessible to people, bringing the idea of 'pleasure, inspiration and play' into different aspects of life.

Sometimes, you need to stop and think it over. I consider myself in a war zone; you need to have a strategy. Being independent is good, it pushes me to keep moving. If I have the ability and confidence, I don't need government funding. I want recognition from the audience. I've realised living the good life is not my goal. I want to make people happy and look for more possibilities in my career.

You've worked with a number of fashion and commercial brands. Do you worry that people criticise you for being too commercial?

I've been over that. I know what I'm doing. I don't want to be an artist because that will limit my creativity. I'm thinking about collaborations. My strength is to work with different people and surprise them by doing something they didn't expect. It's so much fun. I'm going to collaborate with a salon and maybe a cafe in the future. I have so many ideas.

Jim Chim Tek Koon live show. 8.15pm, January 21 and 22, Hong Kong Coliseum. Tickets HK$480, HK$280 and HK$150 from Urbtix. Reservations: 2734 9009