Detention

Hijinks and flying kicks abound in this piece of non-verbal physical comedy from the Hong Kong-based Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio, last unleashed on an unsuspecting Fringe in 2012. The plot – if what happens can really be described as plot – revolves around three mischievous teenagers banished to the detention room for undisclosed reasons (probably involving farts), who find themselves forced to contend with their feisty, lovelorn teacher and a new challenge to their hormonal equilibrium. Really though, the whole affair is just an excuse for the precocious young cast to goof off and showcase their considerable talents. What better a platform than Detention to do just that?

A mishmash of acrobatics, music and grievous bodily harm, the ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ mantra practiced in this classroom is certainly anarchic fun

It’s easy to get swept up in the vitality and exuberance of this endearing show, but if you pop on your critic’s hat and think about what’s happening for more than three seconds, it hits you how truly bizarre Detention is, even by Fringe standards. A mishmash of acrobatics, music and grievous bodily harm, the ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ mantra practiced in this classroom is certainly anarchic fun, but the chaos isn’t organised.

What you end up with is brilliant displays of beatboxing prowess smacked up against jokes objectifying the female cast members; slick old-school slapstick where you wish there was a fourth wall for them to crash into. The lack of trajectory becomes particularly problematic as events reach their climax, the disparate plot strands unsure of how to resolve themselves. A kung-fu showdown feels like a slightly unimaginative answer given what has come before, but to be fair to Detention, I can’t say I expected the sologamy.

You leave unsure whether you were laughing with it or at it. In the end, I guess it all hinges on which kind of funny you consider the idea of a schoolgirl obsessed with cat food to be. Either way, you’re laughing. Full of silly pleasures and boasting a multi-talented cast, if you can get on board with Detention’s unique brand of logic, then switch off your brain and enjoy.

Reviews by Joe Christie

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★★★★
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★★★
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The Blurb

**** (Scotsman). Non-verbal physical comedy featuring five talented actors: combining a Chinese opera performer, comedian, acrobat, drummer and dancer. Returning to the Fringe three years after delivering Hong Kong-style humour and over 100 performances around the world. The nostalgic classroom mischief story is set around an after-school detention session, three naughty boys are joined by a beautiful classmate and a fiery teacher. A series of classroom mayhem scenarios are played out in a comical and physical manner. The work impresses audiences of all cultures and ages.

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