PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 10:27am

HK Cultural Centre Studio Theatre
Reviewed: Mar 8

For several years the Hong Kong Arts Festival has been supporting new playwrights by way of commissions and script publication in Chinese and English. These productions are now annual festival highlights; last year Santayana Li made a solid debut with Journey to Home and Yan Yu's Jiao Qing (2011) was memorable.

This year, the festival has picked an absurd comedy by Hunan-born and Shenzhen-raised Wang Haoran, who looks at cross-border conflicts arising from the rapid urbanisation on the mainland.

Blast revolves around three men who share a bedsit: Dabo (Chan Wing-chuen) is a 48-year-old pizza delivery man; Xiaobo (Wang Wei), 32, is a slimy salesman; and the 25-year-old Weibo (Man Kit-chung) is a clerk.

They cannot be more different - Xiaobo is flashy, Weibo is antisocial and Dabo is reticent - yet all are touched by the shifting relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong. Dabo married a mainland woman and their daughter has gone missing, Xiaobo is adjusting to his life here as a new immigrant, while failed university student Weibo is about to lose his job to cheaper labour from the north.

One day, Dabo comes up with a proposal that could change their lives forever. But can the trio set aside their differences and prejudice to reach for a common goal?

Directed by Chan Chu-hei, Blast has a stylised narrative of snippets and individual scenes. Background construction and traffic noise set the scene but the audience only gets a real sense of what's going on in act two (and this is a two-hour play with only three acts).

Wang's writing is contemporary and his humour is characterised by Chinese artists' fascination with bodily fluids and human faeces (which is also prevalent in visual arts). The use of coarse language - there is plenty of swearing in both Cantonese and Putonghua throughout - gives the play a bit more grit.

Chan's distinct stage mannerisms and excellent sense of comic timing help liven up some of the slower scenes. But it is Wang Wei, a full-time actor with the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, who steals the show with his strong performance as the seemingly worldly Xiaobo who, despite being in Hong Kong, is still dazzled by the bright city lights of Dongguan.

The drama , however , suffers a great deal from its length and director Chan's uneven pacing of the play.

Kevin Kwong