Friday, 17 February 2012

Sha Tin, George V and Tezuka.

Early morning trip up to Sha Tin College in the New Territories, one of five English Secondary Foundation Schools in Hong Kong studying the International Baccalaureate. We were given a warm welcome by Neil Harris' who's been teaching Drama out here for over twenty years.

He gave us a tour of the School, which is perched high on a hill, giving great views over towards the Chinese border and we talked for an hour or so about the prospects for Drama graduates out here.

Neil felt it was a really good time to come out and set up a company. He thought it pretty simple to hire venues and put work up. I got the impression that for all the highly branded work that is brought in for the prestigious Hong Kong Festival there was enough interest to sustain a whole range of start-up or newly created work and that with perseverance and best foot forward you could quickly establish a reputation in what seems to be a fairly small pool of practicing companies.

We headed back into Kowloon and over to the King George V School, another of the foundation Schools to interview sixth former Liberty, who's applied for the Applied Theatre programme. The School itself is one of the oldest in the territory and was used as a Prisoner of War camp, some reports suggest a torture chamber, during the Japanese occupation in World War II. They proudly proclaim that within minutes of the Japanese surrender a Union Jack was once again flying over the buildings. The first to be raised in Hong Kong.

Liberty did well and we were happy to offer her a place for next year.

This evening we headed off to the HK Cultural Centre, the huge bowed theatre and concert hall on the Kowloon waterfront, to see TeZukA, a new dance piece created by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, celebrating the life and work of Japanese manga artist Osamu Tezuka.

For all the technical virtuosity of the dancers and the clever, cleverness of the projections, which animated the back cyc, it was a strange, soulless evening, where the scale of the production overtook any possibility of intimacy between the audience and the work.

The real problem is that the choreographer didn't trust his own image making, often making the performers deliver the dullest of biographical detail in order to explain the abstractions made on stage. A shame really as I'm not sure knowing much about Tezuka the man was a pre-requisite to enjoying the playfulness of the work. In fact the finest moments came when the dancers replicated the flow of a paintbrush or, in the most inventive sequence the folding and smoothing of a sheet of paper. For most of the evening, however, the technology overwhelmed the human figure, leaving us rather adrift.

The audience, Hong Kong's great and good, were polite rather than ecstatic at then end. Culture consumed. Home to bed.

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