Ahh.. my first post.
The ten shows in 2008 that I found the most memorable, the most inspiring, the most enjoyable… ones that made me think, moved me, changed my perceptions were…
1. Yo-yo Ma & Kathryn Stott (Barbican, London, December 2008). Hands down winner! In particular Bodas de Prata & Quatro Cantos…I had never heard such beautiful music before. So touching, so sorrow. I had never really understood how music or dance moved people to the point of crying, until this concert. What beautiful music… glad I got to see Yo-yo Ma live.
2. Pina Bausch’s Café Muller / The Rite of Spring (Sadler’s Wells, London, 18 February 2008). The pillar of European contemporary dance. The two pieces performed, Cafe Muller and The Rite of Spring were choreographed by her in the 1970s, but you could see how modern thinking she was and how she is so influential in this field. I love dances that are random, that are unpredictable. But even more (maybe even more… hmm.. think it maybe depends on my mood), I love watching dance that is very orderly and predictable. I like works that go BAM! in your face – I think the sheer number of people in the piece was what did it for me. They were so synchronized – there was a pattern, you become familiar with certain choreography to the point where for certain bits I felt like I could join them on stage as I knew what they were going to do next. According to studies, one of the reasons why people like watching formulaic movies (whether this be romantic, adventure, horror) is because they, more or less, know what to expect. And they enjoy being able to predict. A great double bill. Definitely love Pina Bausch’s work.
3. Brief Encounter (London, 23 July 2008). Kneehigh Theatre. Incredible. Not sure watching just one show warrants loving a company, but they are absolutely brilliant! So talented – singing, acting, playing various instruments… the minute you stepped into the theatre, you stepped into their world. They had a very inventive set and used very simple props in clever ways for dramatic effects. For example, a quick pull of a curtain across the stage, sound effects, dramatic music and some creative projections became the train… the kind of show where you laugh with them and you cry with them.
4. Timon of Athens (Shakespeare’s Globe, London, 6 August 2008). This was a very pleasant surprise (went because I got free tix! :-D) Never really enjoyed Shakespeare, but really enjoyed this production. Timon of Athens is actually regarded as one of Shakespeare’s least popular, least liked and most difficult plays… but I much prefer it over Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer’s, 12th Night etc. Perhaps it was the humour, the values and the incredible cast. Shakespeare’s Globe is a beautiful venue.
5. To be Straight With You (National Theatre, London, 11 November 2008). DV8’s most recent production. Have heard much about their works before, but this was actually my first time seeing them. An incredible amount of research must’ve gone into this production… with a lot of shocking facts revealed. I wouldn’t say the show was incredible in its entirety, but there were definitely very memorable and incredible bits.
My favourite part was a scene near the beginning where a man stood behind the screen, with a globe projected onto the screen. He was basically dancing behind it, with his movements corresponding to the movement of the globe and the narration (with horrifying facts of how 85 countries in the world condemn gay.. where in 5 countries, being gay can lead to death penalty.. how religion plays a role). He would swipe his right hand across his body, and the globe will go spinning. Put his hand up and then the globe would stop. Then he’ll move his hands from the middle of his body diagonally apart, and the continents will split in those directions. Simple (to watch – sure it wasn’t simple to do the graphics and coordinate it), but very effective.
6. KA (MGM Hotel, Las Vegas, 24 May 2008). Cirque du Soleil’s version of Zelda!! I love Zelda. It was great and so much fun. Amazing use of set, lighting and costumes. A mixed bag of cultures… which was slightly odd. It was slightly Chinese at parts, there were Yeti-like characters, and then the samurai sword… heh. But the imaginative characters were great. The purpose-built set and stage were really very very incredible. The stage became the mountain, the cliff… sand would become the dessert and the next minute, the whole stage would turn vertical and all the sand would be poured off stage. Very mesmerizing. Incredible acrobats. Really liked the music too. It was like being in a video game world, where each level had a different theme and different quirky characters, good and bad.
7. Raise the Red Lantern (Royal Opera House, London, 2 August 2008). First time seeing the world renowned National Ballet of China. They must go through such incredible and stringent training – I feel like they all come out of the same machine! Could be good, could be bad. Anyway, it was a very enjoyable show. One of the main wives (the 3rd maybe? can’t remember exactly anymore) was really good. I loved the bit where they were playing ma jong. It was funny…
8. The House of Viktor and Rolf (Barbican, London, 18 September 2008). Another very pleasant surprise! I didn’t think I’d actually like the exhibition all that much but it was getting really good reviews, so I decided to go along. I’m not that into fashion… but what an amazing duo. It wasn’t even their fashion that was good… it was the concepts behind their fashion shows. They had the most creative ideas like a fashion show modelling all blue clothes. The models, as they were strutting down the catwalk, were videoed and projected onto large screens behind them. Moving images (i.e. the ocean, green forests) were then superimposed onto their on-screen clothing areas, just like the way the movie industry films using blue backgrounds when they need to add CGI effects (oh dear, not too good at describing this). Another one where all the models came out in black, then at the end, BAM, the stage flipped around and the entire fashion line was shown in bright colours. Another one set in a warehouse where they first came out in dark with only UV lights showing the white bits, and then they redid the whole walk with the lights on. The duo choose really atypical places to run a lot of their fashion shows. I didn’t even pay much attention to the clothes, I was much more intrigued by how they showed everything.
9. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Royal Festival Hall, October 2008). Absolutely brilliant. I had never heard Swan Lake been played so fast before. Good thing no one was trying to dance to it. Also loved Coppelia. I still remember us trying to learn the dance. Jurowski is a great conductor. He’s a fun one to watch.
10. Derren Brown (Garrick Theatre, 30 May 2008). I don’t know how he does it… we were all talking about what a great first date his shows would make… definitely spend hours afterwards trying to figure out how he did all these crazy things.
and then 10 honorary mentions (ok I’m cheating :P)
Balletboyz (Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, 4 November 2008). The highlight was watching 4 15-year olds perform their own choreography… very inspiring. In fact I thought they were more slick and rehearsed than the Balletboyz were (who are getting slightly too old to dance.. what a shame). Definitely can’t deny how Balletboyz has made ballet a lot more accessible though. And their signature tango piece is always fun to watch.
365 by The National Theatre of Scotland (Lyric Hammersmith, 24 September 2008). Great cast. Slow at times, but powerful.
Jonathan Lunn Dance Company (Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, 6 June 2008). Great great pieces.. spoken word narration by Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter!) with great choreography. I liked the piece that incorporated kids from EDge, and also the end piece with words and narration by the late Anthony Minghella. Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter were in the audience!
bahok by Akram Khan Company & National Ballet of China (Sadler’s Wells, London, 11 June 2008). I thought he brought out the best of each dancer, taking advantage of their style and culture. Really cool use of the airport departure/arrival board too. A bit long and slow though.
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall). They encored with Seh Diew Ying Hung June! And they also played with some funky instruments… including weaved baskets and a paddle thing.
BBC’s Maestro (BBC studios)- the episode where Sue Perkins (the eventual winner) had to conduct the Simpsons tune. What great fun. Really shows how important the conductor is, how they really run the show and how differently they can interpret a piece.
Psycho Buildings: Artists Take on Architecture (The Hayward at Southbank Centre, 3 August 2008). What a great and fun exhibit! I loved the installation by a korean artist where a western house crashes into an eastern house (or is it the other way round?) He used a lot of over-sized doll-house models.. very intricate and detailed. Also loved the rowing-across-the-skyline exhibit. Almost won the rowing race, heh. Some random installations though… like the peppercorn sack. and the room that was deliberately ripped apart but looked too deliberate?
Man Who Had All the Luck (Donmar Warehouse Theatre, 18 March 2008). Like with Shakespeare, I’m not a big Arthur Miller fan, but it was a great play… maybe I just have a natural adversity against all texts and authors studied during highschool. heh. Need to go see more plays at the Donmar!
Kodo Drummers (Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, 29 January 2008). The precision and technique they have is amazing! Ok, maybe it’s a bit cheesy and showy, but I loved it. I like percussion.
Henry V by Derby Shakespeare Theatre Co. (Minack Theatre, August 2008). – Ok I hate to say this.. the acting was actually quite really not so good (sorry)…but the venue!! SO beautiful. Go and see absolutely anything there and it’ll be totally worth it!
Endnote…just to say… it’s funny how time warps what you remember. And how after some time, you think differently about certain shows… some shows, after a bit of digestion, I come to like more…. or to like less. Maybe I’ll try this sometime… write about a show immediately after and then a month after. HMm! 🙂
yay, first post.