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Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

The production ran through September 11th,

The play, written by British playwright Dennis Kelly, ran at the Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre from 02 September 2022 until 11 September 2022, with the help of Cantonese translations from WONG Wing Sze and directions from Edward LAM Yik Wah.

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre Dennis Kelly's play is monologue from a mother, an unnamed woman, played by Jennifer Lam, and for over 90 minutes, Lam is the central and single figure on stage. The woman met her husband at an airport in Naples, after a firm decision to leave the directionless and depressing life behind. She then carves out a good career for herself in the film industry; and has two children, who we come to meet when the woman is desperately trying split her attention back and forth between the two. The woman's life seems hectic, but normal.

But as we come to learn, her husband's business starts running into difficulties, the tension at home builds, and speculations of an affair adds to the already crumbling marriage... eventually resulting in a horrific tragedy.

For the play, set designer WONG Yat Kwan adopts a minimal, black box. Upon entering the theatre, audiences are met with a large screen that occupies half of the stage, showing a time lapse footage of the domestic life of a family of four. Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre The cctv, fly-on-the-wall view helps set the scene, and later on helps to display supporting graphics and live footage of on-stage action. But unfortunately, for many audience members, the screen soon becomes a nuisance, severely restricting the view, and robbing audience members a decent theatre experience. However, a silver lining would be that there was no extravagant set design and props to be missed - only Lam's husband who sits there in silence for the entire length of the play.

The minimal use of a fixed set also means Lam, being the only character on stage, ends up doing most of the heavy lifting. From the start of the play, all the suitcase packing (and unpacking), moving things around, and climbing ladders... it perhaps is a reflection of this busy, working mother of two's life, yet at the same time, for audiences, it can come across as distracting. And whilst we have to applaud Lam for her stamina and strength, all the moving of props and dashing around the stage unfortunately doesn't add much value to the performance. The fast pace means a lot of opportunities for pauses and moments of silence to be missed, not allowing audiences space to process the emotions and really connect.

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre The only time where audiences can really get up close and personal, really connecting with the character and feeling the solemnity of the words is after the tragedy has unfolded, where Lam sits at the front of the stage, applying make up. Furthermore, some of Edward Lam's direction leaves audiences confused and with questions. There maybe a great, well-thought out idea behind the use of handheld cameras, overhead cameras, the live relay of onstage footage, but with out of sync audio and the presence of both display and live-action together on-stage at the same time, it unfortuantely serves as another distraction.

Generally, Girls & Boys is not an easy play to watch given the gravitas of the topic and story. The script itself is gut-wrenching and the Cantonese translation is very strong - successfully and accurately delivering most of the original text - but unfortunately, the overall production was a little underwhelming. Despite saying this, as a theatre goer, I am still keen to see more of Jennifer Lam's works.

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Review: GIRLS & BOYS at Shouson Theatre, Hong Kong Arts Centre



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