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Arts Preview: plot twist makes for class act

 

DETENTION
Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio

 

The three-week run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year offered a valuable opportunity for stage director Tang Shu-wing to perfect his physical comedy, Detention, and turn it into a long-running show.

Three different casts will be featured in the 33 upcoming shows in Hong Kong and, as they did in Scotland, the performers have taken to the city's streets to promote their production.

Tang says it has been a liberating experience, although street performances are more readily accepted overseas where theatre is not restricted to an indoor venue.

Learning from the experience in Edinburgh, the troupe has done several 10-minute performances in the past two weekends at the al fresco area of Hysan Place in Causeway Bay.

"It can be challenging to grab the attention of passers-by but it is a great way to increase our exposure," says Tang.

"It shows people more possibilities and helps them get in touch with something they may not have thought about before. It takes time to build up popularity and a crowd that understands the cultural meaning of a show, but we're getting there."

In its fourth run in Hong Kong since 2011, the performance revolves around a short-tempered teacher and three of her mischievous charges who turn their after-school detention session into a farce.

Tang has tweaked the plot to depict the teacher's story and a set change towards the end of the show highlights the positive eradication of tension between her and the students.

"Instead of having the teacher oppressing the students the whole time, I want to show that there are more layers to the hierarchy than we imagine," says Tang. "It gives the show a more philosophical approach."

Tang attributes the staying power of Detention, originally called Beating the Classroom, to the universality of its theme and non-verbal format, which transcends language barriers.

The talent of the cast members makes for a culturally rich cross-discipline show with singing, dancing, elements of Chinese opera, xiqu and percussion.

While the show's headliners Lin Yingshi, Franky McNugget and Aska Leung will reprise their roles for the upcoming shows, more than 10 new members in three rotating casts promise to keep things fresh.

 

Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, August 2-18 (schedules range from 2.30pm to 8.30pm; no shows on Tuesdays), HK$190, HK$260 Urbtix. Tel: 2144 5335

 

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