Play on violence has strong message

Ah Dum's Family, Shouson Theatre, Arts Centre, April 8 DESPITE the Government's appalling and continuing lack of a positive arts policy, it did help Exploration Theatre to become a full-time, professional company three years ago. The benefit this has proved to Hongkong's theatre scene has been revealed many times since; and no more so than in the company's latest production, Ah Dum's Family.

Written by Cheung Tat-ming, the play is essentially a look at how irrational fears can produce uncertainty and instability. Mr Cheung avoids the currently obvious Hongkong political scene for his setting, however, and takes us into the temporary structure on a rooftop, which is home for Ah Dum and his family.

The first family member to appear is Ah Dum's son, who emerges from an upright piano in much the same manner as Dracula getting out of a coffin - a hint here, perhaps, that the author took his inspiration from The Addams Family.

The son aspires to be a punk-rock percussionist. With the exception of Grandma, who spends her life in a wheelchair, the rest of the family have desires to be what they are not. Grandma is herself. And, whenever, a slight argument escalates into a familybrawl, it is usually Grandma who is assaulted first with tongue, fist or boot.

A violent play? Yes, but it is also a very funny one. The violence is not gratuitous or sensational; it is there to make a valid point about irrationality.

There was a wonderfully manic performance by Lam Ying-git as Ah Dum. This was matched by the brilliant, comic talents of Lee Sik-ying as Ah Dum's wife, and of Yiu Yun-man as their daughter.

Director Ng Gah-hei clearly has great ability, evident in his firm handling of some pretty anarchic material, and the splendid set design of San Sau complemented this fine example of theatrical teamwork.