Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review- The Truth About Lying- HK Art Festival

I was really excited to this show. It was the winner for Best Script, Best Performance and Leading Actress of 2010. This was also the winner of a lot of awards at the 2011 Hong Kong Drama Awards. Playwright, Wong Wing-sze was the recipient of one of the largest arts grants in Hong Kong to help produce this piece. I wanted to see what the board was awarding the money to and what all the buzz was about. Expectations were set high for this show; I paid close to 400HKD to see it and I wanted to see a good show. People were really talking it up as one of the best things to come along in local Hong Kong drama in the past few years. My local "Canto gay" and I went to see it; in case I didn't understand some of the jokes I thought it best to have an interpreter.

Presented by Hong Kong Arts Festival in partnership with author/director Wong Wing-sze it was supposed to be a dramatic look at relationships both work/romantic from the view of the protagonist, Emily who is working at a high power law firm. I can understand the plight of the working woman in HK as an interesting concept for a piece but the story line seemed predictable at best.

Design wise it was beautiful. I though the set design was good and I thought the lighting design was well conceived. I think the use of working lights hanging above the actors as part of the set was rather ingenious as it seemed to put a feng shui feel onto the entirety of the set. Costumes were chic and simple. Yours basic HK business wear, suits, heels and ties. People looked expensive, people looked like those fancy people you see walking around IFC at 11am on a Thursday. All the great design in the world couldn't save it in my mind...

I HATED this show. Pure and simple. If this is the "best of" Hong Kong I really don't want to see the worst. It was the same melodramatic crap you see on TVB every day. Soap opera style situations, writing, acting. Nothing was innovative about it. I really didn't enjoy it. My friend tells me that most modern theatre in Hong Kong is done in this style of performance and maybe it's not what I'm used to.

Yeah, I'm not used to people "over acting" or gesturing like clowns during a scene that is supposed to be seen as a sad moment. The acting style and the meaning of the scenes never had a meeting point that met together cohesively. I never felt empathy for any of the characters with the exception of Alice Lau who was the saving grace of the show, in my opinion. Most of the characters came across as flat stereotypes rather than flushed out beings.

 There was another show I saw about 3 years ago that I had a similar reaction to. It was called Black Swan, and was a retelling of Swan Lake with a Cantonese Pop Band and pseudo-models as the characters. (Camber Carpenter, do you remember this show?) It had similar problems for me. Stilted acting and characters that felt emotionally flat.

There were English surtitles that I did look at occasionally but I'm a true believer to the principal that you don't have to speak the language to appreciate an art form. I love Opera even though I don't speak Italian. I love Chinese Opera even though my Chinese is non-existent. I can understand all the feelings the characters have through the performance of the actor. I didn't get any real emotion out of the performance I saw of The Truth about Lying.

I just got the feeling everyone has been lying to me about how good this show is...
Honestly, I think it's one of the worst shows I've ever seen.
It's also 2 hours without an intermission! (Cruel and unusual punishment...)
They also will not let in latecomers so you better pee before hand.

Cantonese Friend's Grade=C
(He didn't really believe the acting either but he says this is the "style". He called the show, "ok".)


  1. Brave girl Meaghan - I love and respect your honesty... I haven't seen it but wonder if it received awards because it was a one horse race??? You mentioned recently that all theatre productions in the last year could be nominated for best theatre awards but are the judges seriously going to even consider expat productions or will they just look after their own???

  2. honestly, if you can't understand the language, you can't understand this show. this is the essential of a "spoken drama", period.

    1. That's total bullshit. I see theatre in every country I travel to. I've seen GREAT shows in languages I don't understand a single word in. This show was really bad. I love Opera even though it's in Italian and my Italian is non-existent.

      Soap Opera Style acting is terrible and easily translated to being unbelievable no matter what language you speak. Locking your audience in for two hours without an intermission is torture especially when paying over 400 dollars for a ticket. There were sur-titles as you can see in the article above and I had a friend with me. I did every thing I could to like this show but it was just plain terrible.