Minimalist 'Detention' makes festival mark

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2012, 5:00pm

It's great to see Detention, a physical comedy by local stage director Tang Shu-wing, receiving some attention at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. The Guardian gave it a plug in its preview while reviews - there is a YouTube clip on audiences' after-show reaction - have been generally positive. Running for almost a month until August 26 at Summerhall, this production comes hot on the heels of Tang's offering - Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus - at London's Globe Theatre in May as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Taking this slapstick comedy (titled Beating the Classroom when it played here in December) on the road makes sense: the fact it's non-verbal, has a cast of five, and a simple set means it travels well and cheaply. Tang told me Hong Kong should have a touring show, like Jump and Nanta from South Korea, and Detention just might be the one.

Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio is one of the nine arts companies that successfully applied for a new matching grant introduced by the government about three years ago (others include Opera Hong Kong, Premiere Performances of Hong Kong, Shakespeare 4 All Company and Wind Mill Grass Theatre Company) and I have high hopes for Tang, whose stage works more often than not challenge conventions and the way we look at theatre. Its upcoming productions include Thunderstorm, a piece of "contemporary dance and physical theatre" adapted from Cao Yu's literary classic of the same title, and a show called What Would Steve Jobs Do? A further developed version of Detention will return to the Hong Kong Arts Centre, where the troupe is based, in December.

On a grander and more lavish scale, Edward Lam Dance Theatre's Awakening, headlining Canto-pop singer Denise Ho Wan-sze, is re-running for the third time. Written by playwright Wong Wing-sze and choreographed by Yuri Ng Yue-lit, this pop musical premiered last October before touring around the mainland between March and May. It will return to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts next month before heading to Macau.

Partly inspired by the 1977 movie adaptation of Dream of the Red Chamber, which stars Brigitte Lin Ching-hsia and Sylvia Chang Ai-chia, as well as the Butterfly Lovers, Awakening is also a gender-bending tale of love and jealousy that features a mixed cast of local, mainland and Taiwanese actors.

The show has been doing so well box office-wise I guess it'll be heading across the Taiwan Strait soon. I say I guess because when I requested an interview with director Lam last week, the person in charge of the show's publicity just said: "You're too late."