Arts review: dance piece Puzzle falls short on originality

Opening and closing imagery was striking but in between came derivative choreography in this work about the troubles of relationships between men and women

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 5:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 5:45am

Choreographed by the creative team of Flora Hon and Kelvin Lam, Puzzle sets out to explore the relationships, conflicts and miscommunications between men and women.

The eye-catching poster for the production shows Lam and Hon, naked and in the fetal position, bound together in cling film – a thought-provoking image not included in the show, which is a much tamer affair. The piece begins and ends well, but doesn’t offer enough in between.

Puzzle opens with a striking lighting effect – the projection of a circle, at first hollow, then filled, which evokes the concept of yin and yang.

Lam begins to move about the stage and the figure of Hon appears in the background, distorted and separated from him by a transparent screen. Eventually she joins him and they perform an impassioned duet.

So far, so good. However, as the performance progresses, ideas run out of steam and execution wears thin.

First comes a scene where Hon and two other female dancers lament the difficulties of life as a woman. They sob into the ubiquitous Hong Kong toilet roll to the strains of Elton John’s Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word and there’s a twist which suggests that lesbian love may be the answer to the eternal problem of dealing with the male of the species.

This is followed by a scene for three men before all six dancers come together in encounters of attraction and rejection leading to a slow-motion finale.

The piece ends on another striking image – a disembodied female hand reaching out helplessly from off-stage as Lai Tak-wai spins in a rapid solo.

The trouble with Puzzle is that it’s all been done before – the ideas and above all the vocabulary of movement (does there really have to be so much rolling on the floor, for instance?) are familiar from too many other local contemporary dance works.

Admittedly, the stage of the Jockey Club Black Box Theatre – small and triangular in shape – restricts choreographic possibilities in terms of scale, but that doesn’t have to restrict choreographic imagination.

Octavian Chan’s effective lighting was a plus. It was a pity, however, that Jo Leung’s costumes – well-designed in terms of line – were in shades of beige that diminished the visual impact.

Puzzle, Jockey Club Black Box Theatre, Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, Shek Kip Mei. Reviewed: January 16 (matinee)