The Massage King

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2006, 12:00am

The Massage King (Re-run)

Prospects Theatre

Shouson Theatre

Reviewed: August 4

Playwright Paul Poon Wai-sum's The Massage King (first staged in January) is set in a unspecified, gritty Pearl River Delta city where Old China meets New China and New Hong Kong.

Lam Chun (Joey Leung Cho-yiu) is a university graduate who opts for a fast life as a cross-border smuggler. He belongs to the young, materialistic generation who take advantage of what New China has to offer. 'For HK$38 you get a nice massage and a big bowl of noodles - what more can you ask for?' he asks.

On his way back to Hong Kong after a special order, Lam runs into the desperate Man Shun (Shaw Mei-kwan) who drags him to her rundown massage parlour, staffed by a pair of off- beat Mongolians (Chan Suk-yee and Yeung Sze-man).

The drama is Lam's account of his bizarre afternoon at the massage parlour, with a series of flashbacks from Man. The climax is the revelation of the contents of Lam's mysterious package. Poon has written an intelligent, multi-layered story that explores the psychology of locals towards 21st century China and post-1997 Hong Kong. Although stereotypes abound, the world he portrays isn't too far off the reality. The three mainlanders are caught up in and confused by the new riches - and growing social inequality - created by the booming economy, while Lam's life represents a new generation that seeks instant materialistic gratification.

Lam recounts a road accident in which the driver of a Mercedes-Benz orders his so-called brothers to slash the tyres of the taxi he's hit before speeding away - demonstrating the power (and evil) that comes with affluence.

Director Lee Kwok-wai paces this quirky drama well and the four actors, particularly Shaw and Chan, brought their characters to life. The play ends on a sinister note, with Lam's fate depending on the man to whom he has been telling his story: a sword-wielding gangster-like character played by Poon.

Today-Aug 13, 8pm; Aug 12, 13, 3pm also, 2 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai, HK$100-HK$260. Inquiries: 2606 2989. Ends Aug 13