The Comedy of K makes stunning comeback

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 4:06am

The Comedy of K
City Contemporary Dance Company, 
Kwai Tsing Theatre, December 7


City Contemporary Dance Company's closing show this year was a welcome revival of celebrated choreographer Helen Lai's 2004 The Comedy of K.

The "K" refers to Franz Kafka (1883-1924), the Prague-born Jewish writer whose life and work inspired the piece, which reflects the surrealism and existentialism central to his oeuvre.

Visually, the work also pays homage to another noted surrealist of the period, Rene Magritte, and to the expressionist movement led by directors like F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang.

Taurus Wah Man-wai's costumes, Tsang Man-tung's sets and Goh Boon Ann's lighting create a stunning, off-kilter, black-and-white world - Dr Mabuse meets Magritte - where the only colour is an occasional note of red in a bunch of flowers or on a woman's dress.

The outsider is a key theme, and the piece opens with its most extreme manifestation in the writer's The Metamorphosis, where a man named Gregor wakes up to find he has been transformed into a giant insect.

Naked, shivering and unable to move properly, his terror and confusion are intensified by the jeers and bullying of the "normal" people who surround him.

Much of the piece is bleak, with the pain of Kakfa's difficult relationships with his parents and lovers evoked in a series of powerful scenes.

But Lai deftly balances the darkness with the "comedy" of the title. There is ferocious black humour in the work's most famous sequence, where a succession of dancers compete with each other for space on a bed.

Dominic Wong is magnificent throughout, sinister and sweet by turns and extremely funny in his role, Lai Tak-wai vividly conveys Kafka's despair and isolation through some superb dancing, and Lam Po does a remarkable job as the unfortunate Gregor.