We brave the sight of shirtless men to share our -ahem- objective thoughts on Dick Lee’s newest theatrical offering.
By Denise Lee
Contributor for Penny’s Daybook
I’ve never been that girl who went weak in the knees at the sight of perfectly chiseled male physique, but Dick Lee’s Beauty Kings, made everything so easy on the eyes. By the end of the show, the number of times I had cleared my throat while taking in the sight of eight shirtless men easily matched the numerous witty punchlines Dick Lee had woven into the fast-talking, quick-moving scenes.
What remains to clever about Dick Lee’s latest offering is essentially the whole package (the artistic one, of course). Weaving in ideas like societal perception, perversion, fame, wealth, love and sexuality, Beauty Kings manages to reflect life as we know it, through the lens of the male pageant world: a realm few of us have ever dwelled upon.
Another wonderful thing about watching Beauty Kings was the general mix of the audience. Couples, singles and groups of different ages and sexual orientations – from your yuppies to a more mature set – made for a diverse spectatorial body in terms of cultural mindsets on love, life, pageantry and sexuality. I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps, Dick Lee’s anticipation of this circumstance influenced his writing which was at once cheeky and light-hearted but never descending into bawdy humour.
From the get-go, Beauty Kings proposes an experience that challenges the role of the spectator. Enjoying the play’s visual enticements and the linguistic turns also involves the audience’s reactions to the openly (and I daresay almost defiantly) half-nude males and to the very awareness of the audience’s reaction.
While some of the play’s cast did little more than stand, smile and look (superbly) great, well-known names like Lim Yu Beng, Karen Tan and Rodney Oliveiro carried a certain weight in the success of the play. In particular, Rodney’s character Adam played a major role in changing and charging the emotional tones within the play, even whilst holding down several key punchlines. To that extent, credit must be given equally to Dick Lee’s writing and Rodney’s talent.
Actors like Kaeng Chan and Eli T. also added a certain freshness and relatability to the social dynamics of the play, and clearly left keen impressions on many in the audience.
At first lust, Beauty Kings may not be everyone’s idea of a night at the theatre, but the experience of watching, thinking, and thinking about the way watching is so prevalent in our society makes the play well worth your time. Aside from the aesthetic appeal of the show, perhaps the real, lasting beauty of this well-crafted play is the complexity of the spectatorial gaze: powerful, real and seductively dangerous.
Till 17 Jul, 8pm (Tue – Fri) or 3pm & 8pm (Sat and Sun) at the Drama Centre Theatre, National Library. Tickets available via SISTIC.