The Naked Eyes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2000, 12:00am

The Naked Eyes Hong Kong Repertory Theatre City Hall Theatre March 4 The ingredients for a bombastic theatrical epic were all there. The length - slightly less than three hours - and an imposing set - a quasi-surrealist, semi-Gothic interpretation of a crumbling rural mansion. It was all that was needed for the warfare that was offered in a piece about one of the most provocative issues in traditional Chinese society: the heirarchy of the family and its disintegration.

If The Naked Eyes had been done by most mainstream directors - including many of those within the Repertory itself - it would have been a straightforward play delivering an emotional roller coaster with grandiloquence.

Having Ho Ying-fung on board, however, meant none of the populism that has plagued Repertory productions for the past few years.

Instead, there were Ho's trademark aesthetics - the surrealist, non-literal gothic gloom he worked on with his own Theatre Fanatico.

The Naked Eyes became a relatively subtle look at how the human race has slowly lost the ability to communicate, even within families.

The story revolves around a day in the Wang family house. The tribe has gathered to celebrate the birthday of ailing patriarch Wang Wuxi, who reacts by vanishing for the day.

His disappearance becomes an opportunity for family members to vent their spleen about the actions - or inactions - of their parents and partners.

Poon Wai-sum's script managed to blend obvious quips with reflections that Ho made flourish with his idiosyncratic, introspective show.

The breakdown in communication among family members was an opportunity to show how obsessed they were with themselves, neither listening nor responding well to even the most mundane and simple conversation.

There were the strengths of any Ho production - the visual power of backdrops, stunning light and sound designs. But though it was all stretched too thinly in places, given the length of the production, the show was a challenge to the audience to think about issues. There were no bland storylines here.

The Naked Eyes proved to be a good rounding off of a season of grating mainstream plays from a company increasingly pandering to the masses.