EFR - Reviews of Detention

Detention

Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Freya Routledge

at 10:16 on 15th Aug 2015

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The Hong Kong Tang Shu-Wing Theatre Studio’s Detention is a completely bonkers mélange of physical movement that involves dance, drumming, beatboxing and martial arts. Following the story of an afternoon school detention that becomes a glorious sequence of mischief, the 60 minutes of the show was pure joy, passing more quickly that might be desired. The variety never ceased to captivate the viewer’s attention and, despite its occasional lack of fluidity, was an extraordinary feat of engaging and energetic physical theatre.

The choreography was at once graceful and funny, involving myriad dance techniques such as martial arts, tap, modern and Chinese ribbon dancing. Three naughty boys were the first detention-attendees on-stage, promptly breaking into inventive dance routines before their pinched and formidable teacher walked in and sent them straight back to their desks. This starting and stopping was a clever structure for the show that allowed it to move quickly between scenes of great variety. As the teacher moved on and off stage, each character would find a new way to break the rules, which sometimes made it feel like a sketch-show. This was particularly evident in the boys’ attempts to compete for the only girl’s attention, each attempt being more stupid than the last and resulting in raucous choreographed dance fights.

The use of classroom objects as props was innovative throughout the performance. One character turned a table over on top of another and played it like a drum as the girl shook her percussive water bottle. Lighting was also a crucial part of the scenes’ structures but was sometimes

overdone, imitating the unrelenting and unnecessary multi-coloured and multi-directional throb of an underage disco.

Importantly, there was always a prevailing goofiness in the performances which was one of the production's most successful feats. The slapstick humour that infused the physical movement of all characters' performances nearly always hit the mark and the comic timing of the dramatic pauses allowed the action to move speedily through action-packed scenes.

There was also a prevailing sense of mayhem, however, that was the show’s only major shortcoming. Although this chaos was sometimes effective in conveying the madness that pervades the life of an adolescent, it was often hard to follow. The finale was the most difficult to digest as it took on the craziness of a carnival with too many things going on at once as the lights screamed in every colour and direction.

However, despite this occasional lack of fluidity, the performance was nonetheless a completely entertaining showcase of mad talent and ridiculous slapstick humour, delivered by a stellar set of performers.

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Ben Driscoll

at 11:52 on 15th Aug 2015

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Sat awaiting the show, the audience can see Detention’s set already. It’s an all too familiar scene from childhood and high-school movies, the uniformity of the desks facing a blackboard with ‘Repeat 1000 times: Be a good student’ scrawled on it. Three punished boys then walk in, perhaps intending to start their lines. However, curiously, there’s one white glove on each of their right hands. Billie Jean erupts on the speakers and they dance, with perfect synchronicity, the perfectly indulgent Michael Jackson tribute.

Interrupted by their teacher, tumbling over each other and getting back to work, the boys are visibly not placated yet, one can tell where this show is going. Detention, a wordless physical comedy comes from Hong Kong Chinese Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio, demonstrates the resourcefulness that comes with teenagers’ boredom. It came to the Fringe three years ago, and after touring worldwide, it has returned. It definitely has universal appeal to all ages and cultures.

The stage is constantly alive with movement, despite a small, five-person cast. No high-school based show ignores the idea of the class stereotypes. So, in keeping with these tropes, the boys differ vastly in look, creating a difference in physicality throughout the show. There’s the short geek, the tall bad boy and the chubby class joker. They interact not with words but with strange noises and movements. The class joker’s facial expressions are set deep into his big face and are hilariously unforgettable.

Their enjoyment in rejecting authority together, despite their social differences, is surely influenced by The Breakfast Club. However, the arrival of a pretty girl, crying over her detention, turns this detention into a competition to woo the girl - by any means possible. Each tries to impress her in different ways, and what ensues is a showcase of every character’s ridiculous spectrum of talent.

Dancing (body-popping to Chinese folk dance), beat-boxing, wordless singing, ‘air-defying’ martial arts, drumming with makeshift objects, Detention becomes an exposé of physical offerings from both the East and the West. Yet, not only do the boys get all the audience’s attention, both the girl and the female teacher trump the boys at times with perfectly gestured humour and talent.

Soon, however, the spectacle becomes familiar, whilst the plot just a bit too bizarre, and after the second fight scene, and second makeshift drum sequence, the show becomes disorientatint. It feels a little long, and the plot disappears for long periods.

This should not deter anyone from seeing this, however. It is definitely a family pleaser; a dynamic hour of feel-good extravagance.

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