Where the Spotlight is

14 01 2010

FML, damn my usual ballroom and Latin American dancing (BALADS), I train 3 times a week and have competitions nearly every other weekend.

I just feel like it takes over my life 😛 I do love my dancing but I do wanna do new things… every Wednesday and Sunday I’m trying to do karate while keeping my dancing commitments. and then there’s me trying to be in there with the drama crew and doing the occasional lighting for shows (The Pitchfork Disney being my next adventure).

But damn, where’s all my stuff in between? who knows -_-‘

dancing always comes first in the end, booked a trip to Blackpool on the 26th Feb for the biggest university competition of the year! and just my luck, it clashes with “In The Spotlight” event with big theatre critics, Michael Billington, Lyn Gardner (both from the Guardian) and Ian Shuttleworth (The Financial Times).

they all come and be guest speakers at my university, Royal Holloway, but I cat go now and it would have been AWESOME to meet them… /sigh

there have been plenty of opportunities where things get disrupted by dancing, why can’t I just choose the other thing? well you feel like you have a lot of responsiblity as you have your partner to dance with, can’t leave her all by herself or she can’t dance…

bah next time… I’ll try to find the time and place for everything else… well I’m currently not dancing and I’m currently on campus, so I did this instead ^_^ I’m a bit happier.

/end of rant!


Where is all the Chinese Theatre?

2 12 2009

I have just come home from a Theatre Criticism class at my university (for those who do not know, Royal Holloway). Some how, we spent most of the two hours discussing the issues of race, cultures and framing ethic minorities within a particular “bubble”. Coming out of class and wondering about the “Not Black and White” showcase at the Tricycle Theatre, I’d like to go into another debate. If you’re thinking “oh dear god, not another one”, well, I’m going to raise something that I don’t think ever gets mentioned, Chinese Theatre in the UK.

I maybe ignorant with my extent of knowledge in the area but hold on for a second, I do know some things…

Yellow Earth is the only theatre company that comes into my mind when I say Chinese theatre company. Well… they are inclusive of all “british eastern-asian” actors, directors, etc. but are there any other people? I tried searching and I am having a hard time finding any other company that predominately do “eastern asian” theatre in the UK. (So don’t say to me Tara Arts because apparently that doesn’t count, that’s just Asian in England…)King Lear by Yellow Earth Theatre

I found “The Chinese Dance and Mime Theatre Company” who are a big part of spreading the word of the Chinese style and culture with funding from the London Chinese Culture Centre but they did not seem too well-known…

If Yellow Earth are the only company that does this type of theatre, I wonder to myself, why? There is so much more to discover, even for myself; a chinese man who has been born and raised in England. I don’t see much Chinese theatre around.

Don’t get me wrong, in terms of other types of performance; Chinese films, martial arts and circus performances are all very influential and are known to most of the people in the UK. At BFI Southbank, there are plenty of Chinese/Oriental films shown and there are particular seasons as well. (as a side note… watch Infernal Affairs, one of my favourite chinese films. Some may know this better by the remake, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed)

Perhaps the reason these artistic forms are so popular in the UK, instead of chinese theatre, is that I don’t think there has been a great interest in the theatre as such from the chinese people I have met or know. Also, from my experience of Hong Kong, no one goes to the theatre.

I don’t even know where they are or what they look like. Judging from the new 2010 Hong kong Arts Festival theatre line up, there are only 6 theatre in the whole of Hong Kong. I know Hong Kong is not very big (around the size of Greater London) but still… that is not very many theatre spaces. There is Chinese Opera (mainly Cantonese drama) performed in HK, but not very much as well.


I might be just hanging out with the wrong people, but I get that sort of vibe that the chinese minorities in the UK are not interested in theatre. I think this is probably the difference between the Chinese and the other minorities, with the Tricycle particularly in mind.

I’ll be honest though, I cannot speak directly on behalf of the Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese people, as I know that theatre in China is becoming more predominate, as well as in Taiwan (like “Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan” who recently performed at the Barbican for their Bite09 season).

Looking up award-winning chinese playwrights becomes nearly impossible if you cannot read chinese as well, looking up “Wong Wing-sze” gives you a Facebook profile as the first hit.  /facepalm…

At least for artists in China, like Lin Zhao Hua (famous director) and Lao She (famous playwright and novelist), are easy to search. I think there needs to be more access, or some form of publicity. We mentioned that maybe this particular framing of the Black playwrights in the “Not Black and White” season is necessary. New Chinese playwrights or directors need that frame to get everyone looking!

There is some hope I think for Chinese theatre to come here. Looking at Yellow Earth again, I can see plays being written by the British east asian community, fiddling with themes of identity and culture, or even just subjects that are not related to these typical themes that minority groups tend to write about.

I think the meeting of “East and West” cultures is important. I want to see more, that’s my wish. I think there are signs of that when people in the Far east start doing Hamlet or Animal Farm, however, we need more Chinese writers and directors and actors to fill in the void that is in the UK at the moment. I think from there we can see more original Chinese dramas cropping up, I mean, we have other cultural forms or remakes in the UK already: the hip-hop version of the Pied Piper, the Iroko Theatre Company, Kabuki, Tara Arts, and many others as well.

I want to see what is in for the future – companies like Yellow Earth are new, with them only being founded in 1995. So if there are more companies that create new theatre to come around,  then that’s fantastic. I just want to see more! More being invited to international events and doing more world tours. And if anyone can enlighten me in a few other Chinese or Oriental theatre companies than please do.

/end rant.


EDIT: check out http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2008/nov/06/british-east-asian-theatre

This was posted last year in 2008 and apparently, Yellow Earth was the only subsidised British East Asian theatre company in the UK! So it wasn’t so odd that I only could remember one… I hope his has changed or changes soon!

Enron at the Royal Court – Review

30 10 2009


If you have not heard of the scandal surrounding Enron, one of the biggest energy corporations reaching tremendous heights before its collapse into bankruptcy in 2001, this highly visual engaging production will not leave you in the dark. New playwright, Lucy Prebble, has written an intelligent overview of the rise and fall of Enron, with a clear dramatic narrative. The script is beautifully delivered by director, Rupert Goold who brings the stage to life as the audience follows Jeffrey Skilling, played by Samuel West. Skilling with his new bold ideas eventually becomes President of Enron and with co-worker Andy Fastow, played by Tom Goodman-Hill, commit corporate fraud to hide the company’s flaws and ultimately, Skilling’s very own flaws, leading to their downfall.

This is a fantastic play because it is inspired by real life events with a hint of fiction for dramatic effect. The minimalistic trading floor is created with traders standing on a few moveable boxes. The traders indicate they are buying or selling with exaggerated gestures in addition to the sound of large crowds shouting. The atmosphere is manic, yet with minimal effort. Simplicity is a major strength of Enron with its intelligent design and physical style, as well as its use of music and dance. High energy, technologically heavy, musical dance interludes sometimes break the dramatic tension of certain scenes, which is very effective and entertaining. These interludes provide a new perspective on the financial crisis, since they are unexpected in a play about a typically boring issue, for example, there is a song and dance about stock prices with projections on the entire stage with stock prices making various patterns in different colours.

Absurdist elements of Enron also make it more accessible to audience members unaware of the facts. There is a conversation between Skilling and Fastow about saving the company from bankruptcy, referencing Jurassic Park, which ends up with raptors in suits personifying shadow companies. The raptors are physical characters that Fastow feeds, while Skilling cowers in fear. The scene is set in Fastow’s lair with dark red lights; this is a nightmare that crosses into reality, indicating the trouble ahead. Although the Absurdist elements can seem patronising and slightly overdone, they enhance the interesting and funny nature of the play, while educating the audience without complexity.

Surprisingly, the metaphors and crazy dance routines are scarcely used towards the end of the piece, creating a more serious tone, which prompts the question, why now? Despite the play having serious undertones throughout; even the portrayal of the terrible electricity problem in California was with loud techno music and physical dance with green lightsabers. Enron is certainly not a lecture, but a great theatrical piece. Skilling’s final speech requires our utmost attention as there are plenty of lessons still to learn.

I accept this welcome

12 10 2009

I finally have my own blog. Been meaning to do this for a long time.

It turns out I’ll be writing about what I love. Theatre.

Awesome ^_^