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Review: FILTH

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 10:50am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 6:12pm

HK City Hall Theatre
Reviewed: March 14

About midway through this drama about expat life in post-handover Hong Kong, one of the characters, Joe, proclaims: "I hate my life", twice. The banker has just accused his friend Ricky of sleeping with his estranged wife Rebecca before confessing his own infidelity. It's quite a revelation, but by then I wasn't sure if I cared. The play had failed to engage with any compelling narrative or characterisation.

That is not to say FILTH, the first English play commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival, is a bad piece. It is just too ambitious in its attempt to address so many issues and loses focus.

An acronym for "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong" - a term that refers mostly to Britons who came to the former British colony in search of a better life - FILTH is set a decade after this city returned to Chinese sovereignty. Playwright Jingan MacPherson Young poses the interesting question of how this remnant of the colonial era felt adrift under the new political and economic climate.

But the play is also about the intricate relationships between four friends: Joe, Rebecca, her best friend Elaine, and Ricky; telling their individual stories and how the group is perceived through the eyes of the locals, like the couple's driver Ah Fung and part-time maid Fanny. The ghost of Rebecca's father and a little boy called Hitler add little.

The challenging task of tying all these concepts together rested on director Peter Jordan, a veteran of the local theatre scene. He reined in the various strands, moving it forward with a degree of success, even though the pacing was uneven.

The collision of the expat and local worlds offered some comic relief and there were good performances from the whole cast - Charlie Schroeder (Joe), Nina Kwok (Rebecca), David Peatfield (Ricky), Nicole Russo (Elaine), Fanny (Birdy Wong Ching-yan) and Ah Fung (Ben Yuen).

Kevin Kwong



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