Thursday, February 28, 2013

REVIEW: The Animals and Children Took the Street by 1927

Hong Kong City Hall Theatre, Thursday February 21

“Trust no one! Suspect even your own shadow!” was the warning in the Festival Booking Guide on The Animals and Children Took the Street. When I was offered a little brown bag right outside the theatre by a Caucasian lady in 60’s costume, I was most curious until she insisted that I eat it before entering the theatre… hmmm… quickly, my curiosity changed to suspicion… There was really nothing much to be suspicious about for I figure that the lady was required to instruct the audience to eat the sweet before entering the theatre because one is not allowed to eat or drink anything in the theatre… yes, very un-British and one of the few things I am glad that Hong Kong didn’t inherit from its colonial past.

That strange experience outside the theatre though pervades what will happen inside. This little peculiar play by the theatre company 1927 was written and directed by Suzanne Andrade. It was about the life in a seamy neighborhood block, Bayou Mansions, on the fringe of a big city. While the location is populated with all sorts of social outcasts, it was the unexpected employment of child-pirates that ran amok and took over a middle-class park and kidnap the mayor’s cat that made this show delightfully alienating.

The 70-minute show without interval enchanted the audience with a strange story that was told in a strange way. The multiple roles were skillfully performed with only three artists - Sue Appleby, Lewis Barfoot and Eleanor Buchan. The sardonic quips, the interaction between the animation and the performers, the odd accent and the white-face make-up on the female trio rendered through an eccentric mix of Berlin cabaret with Russian productivism echoed the very social message it was trying to make.

Don’t expect to be wowed, but instead expect to be oddly charmed.
The Animals and Children Took the Street
Produced by 1927

Directed & Written SUZANNE ANDRADE
Film and Animation by PAUL BARRITT

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

REVIEW: One Man, Two Guvnors

HK Academy of Performing Arts Lyric Theatre, Wednesday February 20

A lot has been said about One Man, Two Guvnors since it premiered at the National Theatre (UK) in 2011. This play by Richard Bean is an English adaptation of the 1743 Commedia dell'arte comedy play by the Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, Il servitore di due padroni (Servant of Two Masters). This adaptation replaces the Italian period setting of the original with Brighton in 1963. Like its Italian precursor, the story is about one easily bewildered servant who was employed separately by two men. In this adaptation, however, the profession of the characters has been molded to the 1960’s gangster underworld theme.

While I heard a lot of good things about it, I tried not to read any reviews. But still, my expectation is very high as friends in London seemed to really enjoyed it. Overall, this is a very good example of what an adaptation should be. The main architecture was maintained; and while it continues to be a story of an earlier period, the sensibilities were modern. This production directed by Nicholas Hytner was very polished. The combination of music hall, pantomime and variety show was beautifully woven into each other and is the strength of this show. The songs of Grant Olding sat perfectly with the era and truly added that special sheen to the production.

The capacity and the ability of the actors to make people laugh and laugh at themselves within an exact framework is the secret of this production. The comedy employs breaking the fourth wall, inviting audience on stage (and making fun of them), slapstick and corpsing (unintentionally breaking character during a scene by laughing or by causing another cast member to laugh) to name a few. All were executed with fine precision including the corpsing, which looked forced and unnecessary in some moments.

Personal favorite was the well known scene wherein the minder Francis Henshall (Owain Arthur) was requested to serve two dinners simultaneously. Arthur was at his best here, where he bounced around torn between serving and at the same time stealing food. This scene was made even funnier with wonderful Peter Caulfield's Alfie, a slow and deaf octogenarian waiter with a pacemaker!

Overall, One Man, Two Guvnors is funny and entertaining and is higly recommended!

One Man, Two Guvnors
A National Theatre of Great Britain Production
A play by RICHARD BEAN based on The Servant of Two Masters by CARLO GOLDONI

Creative Team:
Physical Comedy Director CAL MCCRYSTAL
Revival Director ADAM PENFORD
Lighting Designer MARK HENDERSON
Music and Songs GRANT OLDING
Sound Designer PAUL ARDITTI
Fight Director KATE WATERS

Cast Includes:
OWAIN ARTHUR, Francis Henshall
EDWARD BENNETT, Stanley Stubbers
COLIN MACE, Charlie Clench
MARK MONERO, Lloyd Boateng
KELLIE SHIRLEY, Pauline Clench
ROSIE WYATT, Rachel Crabbe

THE CRAZE: RICHIE HART (Music Director/bass) OLIVER SEYMOUR-MARSH (guitars) BILLY STOOKES (drums) PHILIP MURRAY WARSON (lead vocal/guitar)

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Friday, February 22, 2013

REVIEW: Ravel, Tan Dun and Rachmaninov with HKPhil

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday February 2

First of all, this is hardly a review and more of a record that I attended the concert. With the Hong Kong Arts Festival on-going, I feel that if I don’t write anything about this performance, then I will just not start writing on the two performances that I have already seen of the HKAF. Also, it has been almost three weeks since I saw the concert and therefore anything I say will not be good reflection of what actually happened. However, because of the duration, what I DO remember actually shows what really made an impression on me.

The concert started with Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales… and you know what? If I didn’t go back to the programme, I can’t remember what piece opened the concert! Perhaps its just age and not the performance.

Tan Dun’s Concerto for Orchestra followed and yes, I do remember this piece very well. In fact, I have got used to greeting my “concert friends” with “HESHO!!!” At least that is what I thought the HKPhil was uttering in the concerto. Like his Ghost Opera I heard early last year, the piece was quite divisive amongst my group of friends. It was one of those contemporary music that one tends to either love or hate… and I love it! The piece owes its origins to Tan Dun's opera Marco Polo (which I saw in 1997 as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival) and deals with travel. The piece is supposed to represent “geographical, musical and spiritual” journey in which the first two were more apparent, while the spiritual part will really depend on whether one is in the mood for this kind of music. HKPhil, led by Hugh Wolff, did an absolutely fantastic job with this piece!

Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances closed the evening. And with “HESHO!!!” still fresh in my mind, I do remember thinking that Wolff’account was deliberate yet light; and have the spontaneity that is just right for “dance music”.

Symphonic Dances
1&2-2-2013 Fri & Sat 8PM
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales
TAN DUN: Concerto for Orchestra
RACHMANINOV: Symphonic Dances

Huho Wolff, conductor

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