“100 years of Bauhaus” celebration in Hong Kong

100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus  100 years of bahaus


A hundred years ago, German architect Walter Gropius founded an art and design school in the small town of Weimar in Germany. The Bauhaus, subsequently became one of the most influential art and design educational institutions of the 20th century. Although the short-lived school only operated from 1919 to 1933, its influence and impact on art, design, craft and architecture can still be seen 100 years later.

On the occasion of Bauhaus’ centennial celebration, the Goethe-Institut in Hong Kong, collaborated with various local partners to present “100 Years of Bauhaus – Rethinking the World“, a special programme consisted of exhibitions, films, lectures, symposium, and creative workshops etc.

At Goethe-Institut in Wan Chai, I visted the “Picturing Bauhaus: Erich Consemüller’s Photography of the World’s most famous Design School” exhibition featuring historical photographs of life and work at Bauhaus from the Klassik Stiftung Weimar institute.


100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus


Photographer Erich Consemüller (1902–1957) originally trained as a carpenter before moving to Weimar to enrol in the Bauhaus School, where he studied from 1922–1927. Consemüller was commisioned by Walter Gropius to photo-document the building, his fellow students and their design work, and around 300 photographs were thus taken from 1926 to 27.

Aside from the photographs, some ensembles of the Bauhaus furniture made by the Frankenberg-based furniture company Thonet were also on display. Founded in 1819 (a hundred years before the Bauhaus) by Michael Thonet, the company pioneered bentwood furniture using veneers, and later a cheaper solid-wood alternative. The company produced furniture designed by the Bauhaus architects Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; these designsthe tubular steel chairs and tables – later became modernist classics, and are still in production today.


100 years of bahaus  100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus


My personal favourite, though, is the avant-garde costumes designed by German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer, Oskar Schlemmer for his own ballet production, Triadic Ballet (Triadisches Ballett) , first performed in Stuttgart in 1922. Schlemmer described his playful costumes as “artistic metaphysical mathematics” and a “party in form and color.”


100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus  100 years of bahaus


A clip of the ballet was shown at the exhibition, while visitors were encouraged to try on the costumes and play with the props. I managed to find a reconstruction of the ballet on YouTube, which is still inspiring, unique and mesmorising to watch even after 100 years (see below)!


Triadisches Ballett von Oskar Schlemmer – Bauhaus posted by Aitor Merino Martínez


Besides the Goethe-Institut, the exhibition was also on view at HKU and City U. I only managed to go to the University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG), which displayed more of Erich Consemüller’s photography works on the Bauhaus school, its interiors and works of the students.

In German, the word ‘bau’ means building and ‘haus’ means house. The teaching programme developed by Walter Gropius in 1922 placed ‘building’ at the centre of all the activities. Hence the school building played a significant role in this context.

Another influential aspect of Bauhaus was its teaching method, which replaced the traditional pupil-teacher relationship with the idea of a community of artists working together across different disciplinaries. Gropius aimed to create “a new guild of craftsmen”, and the school followed the ‘apprentices and masters’ structure similar to the traditional model that trained craftsmen and artisans.


hong kong university art gallery

hong kong university art gallery

hong kong university art gallery

100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus  100 years of bahaus

100 years of bahaus


Although I have never been to the Bauhaus building in in Dessau (it is on my list), I have visited the Bauhaus Archive/Museum für Gestaltung (Museum of Design) in Berlin twice. The small but intriguing-looking museum was designed by Walter Gropius but was not completed until after his death. It has a good collection of furniture, products, art work, photography, architectural drawings and models, jewellery, and textiles featuring many famous names, such as Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Marcel Breuer, Vassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe etc. Besides the permanent collection, there are also temporary exhibitions and a design shop, so I highly recommend a visit to this museum if you are a fan of Bauhaus.


Matt Mullican: Art & hypnosis

Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things

Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things

Matt Mullican: The Sequence of Things at Camden Arts Centre


I am not a fan of mega blockbuster art exhibitions, often I find them over-hyped and mentally exhausting. There are some smaller and out-of-the-centre art centres/galleries that I love visiting and Camden Arts Centre (in Hampstead) is one of them.

Recently, I went to see American conceptual artist Matt Mullican‘s ‘The Sequence of Things’ exhibition and I was completely blown away by it. I wasn’t familiar with the artist’s work before the exhibition, but I was enthralled by the plethora of works that filled the two gallery rooms upstairs.


Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things

Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things  Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things

Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things


Born in 1951 in California, Matt Mullican is the son of artists Lee Mullican and Luchita Hurtado. Now based in Berlin, the artist has been active in the American art scene since the 1970s, and he was a member of the “Pictures Generation” along with such artists as Cindy Sherman, Jack Goldstein, James Welling and Sherrie Levine etc. For over 40 years, Matt Mullican has been experimenting with hypnosis to create art that examines his subconscious mind and act as a strategy to break from the patterns of everyday life. He has developed a codified language of symbols and diagrams in an attempt to articulate the complexities of existence and the human condition. The colour codes are as follows: green for material, blue for the everyday world, yellow for ideas, white and black for language and red for the subjective.

Inspired by Camden Arts Centre’s history as a public library, ‘The Sequence of Things’ layers Mullican’s multiple methods of categorisation and ordering. The works include pin-boards, posters, drawings, flags, objects, photography and videos, all depicting his various maps, charts, diagrams and symbols.


Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things

Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things

Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things  Matt Mullican The Sequence of Things  Matt Mullican

Matt Mullican   Matt Mullican

3rd right & last row: Matt Mullican giving a lecture at the Camden Arts Centre


Matt Mullican is renowned for his lectures and performances under hypnosis and in a state of trance. Hence, I was eager to attend the lecture given by the artist on the final day of the exhibition. The 2.5-hour long lecture comprises a demonstrative blackboard talk, a slide show, video, followed by a Q & A session.

The long but intriguing lecture enabled the audience to learn more about the concepts behind the artist’s works. Yet due to the complexity of his ideas and theories, sometimes it was difficult to grasp or digest them easily. During the last few decades, the artist has continued to explore the topics of cosmology and the subconscious, and has performed in a trance state at many world-renowned art museums including Tate Modern.

In recent years, scientists are conducting more research on the relationships between consciousness, hypnosis/hypnotherapy and meditation. And since we still know very little about our minds and consciousness, ground-breaking works by artists like Matt Mullican have contributed to the understanding of the subject matter.

You can watch a video of Matt Mullican performing while under a state of hypnosis at Tate Modern in 2007:




Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker



Amidst the Brexit storm, a Japanese company of 25 performers brought chaos and frenzy to the Pit at the Barbican; nonetheless it was still more predictable and endurable than the political turmoil that was unfolding during the week.

Part of LIFT Festival 2016, the sold out 45-minute show Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker pays tribute to the Japanese subculture – “otagei” (オタ芸) or “wotagei” (ヲタ芸) – the geeky dance routines performed by superfans to their Japanese pop idols.

Founded by Tokyo-based artist Toco Nikaido, the show is neither theatre nor pop concert; though it is certainly a stimulating form of entertainment that enhances the senses.






Before the show, we were warned about the noise level and water guns, and so we were given rain ponchos and ear plugs as our ‘protections’. Once inside the theatre, it was interesting to see how the entire space – walls and seats – were all covered in plastic sheets!

Aside from the introduction at the beginning, I can’t explain what really went on in the following 40 minutes. I saw the energetic performers danced, sang (in Japanese), jumped, clapped, sprayed water and threw objects at the audience, and ran around urging the audience to join in. It is mad, anarchistic, bewildering, and overwhelming. There is no narrative to the piece, and you are supposed to immerse yourself in the commotion and go with the ride.




As much as I enjoyed the show, I felt that it could have been crazier! Something was lacking for me, and I can’t even pinpoint what it is. However, I appreciated the effort of the performers, especially when they lined up in the corridor to greet us individually as we left the theatre.

As I mentioned, the show is not intellectual, it is a show where you can unwind and act silly, so what more can you ask for when the world outside is even more chaotic than inside the theatre?



Brighton Festival 2016

Brighton rail station


Top: Brighton railway station, built in 1840; Bottom: Brighton from the train


It has been a while since I have visited Brighton, and the annual Brighton Festival (6th – 28th May) gave me a perfect excuse to revisit this popular coastal city.

The trick to train travel in the UK is to book as early as you can – which was what I did – and I got a bargain for my day return ticket from London. I also managed to book ‘The Encounter’, a play by Simon McBurney/ Complicite which was sold out for weeks at the Barbican in London.

These days, it is almost impossible to book tickets for popular performances and activities in London; it is a sign that the city is getting over-populated. Thus, if you really want to see a sold-out performance/ concert, check to see if they are performing in other cities, chances are you are more like to find tickets (and cheaper) outside of London.


brighton   brighton


brighton   brighton

brighton   brighton

brighton shop  bookshop

brighton signage

brighton signage  brighton signage

The city of Brighton


Arriving in the morning gave me some time to wander around the city centre, and the famous seafront. The weather forecast predicted an overcast day, which turned out to be wrong (again); and although I was pleased to see the sun, I felt as if I was taking a sauna underneath my several layers of clothing!


brighton seafront

brighton seafront

brighton seafront

brighton seafront

Brighton seafront



brighton dome

brighton dome

brighton dome  brighton dome

Top: The Royal Pavilion; the rest: the exterior and interior of Brighton Dome


At the 50th Brighton Festival this year, American avant-garde artist, musician, film director and wife of the legendary Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson was invited to be the guest director. And one of the highlights of this year’s festival is ‘Lou Reed Drones’ at the The Spire in St Mark’s Chapel.


the spire brighton

lou reed drones

Lou Reed Drones at The Spire, St Mark’s Chapel


Visitors are provided with earplugs before entering the chapel, and they are warned about the loud noise level of the installation. Inside the chapel, the religious space is transformed into a place of worship for rock music and Lou Reed fans!

The installation comprises guitars and amplifiers owned by Lou Reed, and a feedback loop is created with each guitar and its respective amplifier. The loud guitar drone sound aims to give visitors a visceral, emotional and spiritual experience in a setting that is not usually associated with rock music.


the lighthouse brighton  brighton festival

the lighthouse brighton

Top left & bottom: The Sprawl (Propaganda about propaganda) at Lighthouse


At the Lighthouse, award-winning Dutch artists and filmmakers Metahaven presents an immersive video installation The Sprawl (Propaganda About Propaganda). Working with cinematographer Remko Schnorr and electronic musician Kuedo, they take ‘a deeper, stranger look’ at how the internet has opened the floodgates for multiple interpretations of truth, as influenced by aesthetics, convention, and agenda.


attenborough centre for the creative arts

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts


After an alfresco lunch in the city, I headed to the campus of University of Sussex by train to see matinee performance of ‘The Encounter’. Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the newly renovated and Grade II listed Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, designed by Sir Basil Spence. The building was closed in 2007 for refurbishment, and only reopened last year. The public performance programme was launched this spring, and so I was lucky to enjoy the state-of-the-art auditorium for an immersive sound-focused show.

Despite the hype, I was slightly disappointed with Simon McBurney’s solo show, and I overheard similar complaints while queuing inside the washroom after the show. Technically speaking, it is almost faultless; and it is accompanied by a thought-provoking narrative and accomplished acting. However, the show is more than 2 hours long (with no interval), and the last 30 minutes just dragged on… this is a real shame because the show would have been perfect if it is not as long!


The Grand Hotel Brighton


Top row: The Victorian Grand Hotel, Bottom row: Hilton Metropole Hotel


After the show, I headed back to Brighton and walked along the seafront towards Hove to see the next performance that I had booked earlier. As I was walking along, I couldn’t help but admire the stunning architecture en route. Aside from the magnificent Grand Hotel, designed by architect John Whichcord Jr. in 1864; there are also many intriguing modernist architecture nearby.


bedford hotel

odeon kingwest brighton

Embassy Court Brighton

Van Alen Building brighton

brighton seafront art deco

Top row: Bedford Hotel (Holiday Inn); 2nd row: Odeon Kingswest; 3th row: Embassy Court; 5th row: Van Alen Building – a neo art deco style flats completed in 2001; Bottom row: the art deco style Alfresco restaurant


One of them is the 17-storey Bedford Hotel (Holiday Inn) designed by Swiss-British architect, R. Seifert and Partners (who also designed the Centrepoint in London) in 1967. The brutalist style building is probably enjoying a revival now as brutalism is back in the spotlight in recent years. And not far from it is another brutalist structure – Odeon Kingswest, designed by architects Russell Diplock & Associates in 1973, as part of a larger redevelopment plan. Many locals think this building is hideous, but I find it quite enthralling, especially the pointy pyramidal/ geometrical castellations on the roof edge. It looks so out of place and intrusive, but it carries a notion with cultural significance in the city’s history.

Further down the seafront is the Grade II listed Embassy Court designed by Wells Coates in 1935. The 11-storey Modernist apartment block has features associated with the movement including curved corner, recessed upper storeys and concrete framing. Originally designed as a luxury flats, the building’s high-class status declined from the 1970s, and it was close to being demolished until Sir Terence Conran‘s architectural practice was hired in 2004-5 to restore it back to its former glory.


P1160864-compressed  P1160877-compressed

hove seafront

P1160873-compressed  P1160867-compressed

hove seafront

Brighton and Hove seafront


Walking towards Hove, the landscape becomes dominated by Regency architecture. It is hard to miss the conspicuous Grade II listed Adelaide Crescent. Building work of the 250-acre estate started in 1830, but construction work was stopped and the original design was modified, and it was eventually completed in the mid-1860s.


hove regency architecture


Adelaide Mansions



Top row: Adelaide Crescent; 3rd row: Adelaide Mansions is a Grade II listed residential building designed by Thomas Lainson and built in 1873; 4th & 5th rows: The Grade II listed Kings House was built in 1871-1874 by James Knowles.


I knew very little about the show that I was going to see – except that it is an outdoor performance about belonging, migration and the fleeting nature of what surrounds us.

Belonging(s) is a creation by artistic director and choreographer, Maresa von Stockert from Tilted Productions. The performance combines contemporary dance, physical theatre and a lot of props like vinyls and cardboard boxes. The show features 9 main performers, and incorporates more than twenty local participants who duck in and out of the action.

The show is ambitious, playful, spontaneous and experimental. However, it is also over-long (theme of the day), confusing, and a bit amateurish. At times, the audience was unsure of where to go or who to follow after each act, and there were many awkward transitional moments.

There is no narrative to the performance, so it is not a piece that requires the intellect. Yet the piece fails to deliver all the complex messages that the director wishes to convey, despite the imaginative use of props and some interesting dance choreography.


Belonging(s) by Tilted productions  Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions

Belonging(s) by Tilted productions  IMG_4776-compressed

Top four rows: Belonging(s) – an outdoor dance and theatre performance by Tilted productions


I particularly liked the last seafront location of the performance, but it was getting windy and cold (finally, I was glad to have brought a coat), and I had lost my interest by then. As the group moved further down the seafront, I decided to quietly move towards the opposite direction and head back to the centre.


hove seafront

hove seafront


On the train back home, I felt completely exhausted. In some ways, I wish I had stayed overnight because I felt like there was much more to do and see. But I thoroughly enjoyed my fun and slightly jam-packed day out in Brighton, and I would most certainly return again in the future.


Live animation workshop with The Paper cinema

paper cinema workshop

The Paper cinema at work


As a fan of paper, puppetry and animation, I was feeling quite ecstatic when I found out about a one-day live animation workshop with The Paper cinema at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington.

Famed for their charming ‘Odyssey’ show premiered in 2012, The Paper Cinema was founded in 2004 by Nicholas Rawling, Imogen Charleston and Christopher Reed. The company combines illustrations, puppetry, theatre, music and animation for their storytelling performances. The illustrations are manipulated in front of the video camera and projected onto the large screen alongside with live music. I had not seen their show before the workshop, but fortunately I did get the chance to see their one-off fund raising performance a few weeks later.


paper cinema

Nicholas Rawlings amazing illustrations


There were around 30 people at the workshop, which was larger than I expected, and a majority work in the theatre or creative industries. Nicholas and Imogen first performed a short piece of work, followed by an explanation of their techniques and a Q & A session. Afterwards, Nicolas showed us his superb and intricate sketches, and asked us to split into small groups in order to work on our own short animations.


paper puppet workshop  paper puppet workshop

Our team’s illustrated handheld puppets


For the rest of the afternoon, my team of four (including a children’s book illustrator) developed a story line and created our paper puppets based on the advice given by Nicolas and Imogen. Imogen also demonstrated many techniques and ‘tricks’ that helped us to incorporate into our short animation piece.

The most exciting part of the day was when each team performed their short animations in front of each other. The results were fascinating as we all had different illustrated styles and story lines; but all in all, it was fun, entertaining, and we all had a blast!

Workshops like these remind me of being a child – when we were asked to be as creative as possible, but at the same time, we had to divide work equally among team members. Learning to collaborate with others is crucial as four minds are more likely to create unexpected surprises than just one! I often find working solo extremely isolating, and so there is much joy in taking part in workshops like these from time to time.


battersea arts centre  battersea arts centre

battersea arts centre  battersea arts centre

odyssey by paper cinema

Top 2 rows: Battersea arts centre after the fire; Bottom row: The last scene of ‘Odyssey’


A few weeks after the workshop, I attended the special fund-raising performance of ‘Odyssey’ at the Battersea arts centre for Good Chance Calais and Medecins sans Frontieres – two organisations that are helping refugees in Calais.

Coincidentally I saw the show ‘Fiction’ with a friend at the Battersea Arts Centre about a year ago (just days before the fire), so it felt good to return to the theatre and see the progress of the renovation works.

As much as I enjoyed the show, I couldn’t help being captivated by Nicolas and other musicians working in front of the screen. I think the workshop has inspired me to want to learn more about puppetry, and I hope that I will get the opportunity to develop some new skills in the future.


The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey (Trailer) from The Difference Engine on Vimeo.



London Mime festival 2015 & more

While I am still sorting out my photo collection and blog entries on Portugal, I shall review some amazing performances that I saw after my holiday at the London International Mime festival in January. Luckily, I had pre-booked the tickets in advanced, because most of the shows I saw were sold out weeks before the performances.

The first show I saw was ‘Plexus’ at Sadlers Wells, conceived by French artistic director Aurélien Bory (founder of Compagnie 111) for the extraordinary Japanese classically-trained ballet dancer Kaori Ito.

The description of the show is as follows: “Entrapped by five thousand cords, a forest of brilliantly lit strings, a warrior-woman conquers her environment so that she floats, like a black angel, in a sumptuous cage that she can only leave by vanishing completely.”

The above paragraph basically sums up the show. Ito spends most of the performance being ‘trapped’ within the stage set of five thousand cords, where she uses her body to explore the space and her body limits. Ito is utterly mesmerising to watch, but my opinion, it is the stunning set design and visual effects that steals the show. There is no narrative to this poetic and beautiful piece, but it is so visually compelling that one is not necessary. It is an artistic and creative triumph for both Bory and Ito.


 Plexus / Compagnie 111 / Aurélien Bory / Kairo Ito


I had no idea what was in store at ‘Dogugaeshi‘, except that it is inspired by traditional Japanese folk puppetry. Basil Twist is a third generation Americian puppeteer who has worked for films, operas, Broadway shows, and collaborated with Kate Bush on her comeback concert in 2014.

I was kinda expecting to watch a puppetry performance, possibly with a narrative. Yet the puppetry turns out to be the side dish, whereas the backdrop screens are the main course. What a pleasant surprise! There is only one puppet (a white fox with a very long tail) and not much of a narrative; what the audience sees throughout the performance is merely a constant changing of paper door screens and wall patterns, which is unexpectedly mesmerising. The abstract piece is accompanied by live shamisen music performed by Japanese musician Yumiko Tanaka.

The name ‘Dogugaehi‘ literally means ‘changing, or exchange of props‘ in Japanese. This stage mechanism serves as a backdrop to the traditional folk puppet theatre originated on the Awaji island at the beginning in the 16th or 17th century. Video projection is one of the modern elements that Basil Twist injected into his version of this traditional craft, and it works wondrously. The piece captures the intrinsic essence of the tradition, and it is an intriguing succession of visual experiences, which is refreshing and rare to see in western theatre.


Dogugaeshi by Basil Twist


It is hard to summarise ‘32 Rue Vandenbrandenby Belgian’s dance theatre group Peeping Tom. It is surreal, fun, bizarre, dark, and rather confusing. The hypersurreal setting and odd/dysfunctional behaviour of the six cast members seem to capture the audience’s imagination initially, but as it turns darker and more subdue, the plot becomes weaker and the ending is an anticlimax which I think is a real shame. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by the actors/dancers; their physical capabilities are remarkable and their use of body language reveals that speech is not always necessary in getting ideas across, even if they are exaggerated or make no sense!


32 Rue Vandenbranden by Peeping Tom


Besides the London Mime festival, I also saw two excellent dance performances elsewhere in London. The first was a triple bill dance performance by K-Arts dance company, established by Korea National University of Arts in 1997. The performance took place at Laban Theatre, which is part of the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of music and dance in Greenwich.

The three performances of the evening were: ‘Hommage‘, ‘Reflection‘ and ‘No comment‘. ‘Hommage‘ is a piece that explores the traditional ‘bow’ of the eastern culture; it is a ‘fusion’ (I am not a fan of this term) of eastern culture, philosophy and metaphor (Buddhism) with contemporary choreographed dance movements. It is a subtle, beautiful and supple.

Reflection‘ is short improvisation piece created by the dancers (mostly female), exploring his or her body movements and expressions in a unique way. The last piece ‘No comment‘ is the most exhilarating of the three, performed by a all-male cast (who ended up running topless off stage). One notable aspect of this piece is the music, the tracks used are ‘Ali Mullah‘ by Transglobal Underground and ‘Babylon‘ by Goran Bregovic (one of my favourite contemporary composers). This is a truly ‘global’ piece with dancers showcasing their technical skills, vigorous style and six-pack bodies!

The diversity and originality of the three pieces reveal the standard of contemporary Korean dance today, and it is truly thrilling. One of the strongest aspect for me personally is the choreography, I think the subtle infusion of eastern philosophy and culture is evident even in the seemingly modern pieces, but without the cliches. This show was an eye-opener for me, and I hope that I will get more opportunities to see young Koreans dancers performing on stage in London again soon.


Can a dance performance which debuted in 1987 still excite the audience 28 years later? The answer is YES, as seen in ‘What The Body Does Not Remember’ performed by Belgian’s dance company Ultima Vez founded by choreographer/ Photographer/filmmaker Wim Vandekeybus.

With a new cast and live music by contemporary ensemble Ictus, the award-winning debut piece performed for two nights only at Sadlers Wells as part of their world tour. Divided into several acts with no interval, the adrenaline-fuelled performance is not only exciting, it is raw, innovative, playful and unsettling. There is so much going on on stage that I could do with an extra pair of eyes to follow everything that is happening at once.

I am amazed by the fact that it still feels so fresh and modern after so many years. One of the highlights of the show is at its very end after the applause, when three members of the musical ensemble come on stage to perform without any musical instruments. What a perfect finale to an unforgettable show!


Ultima Vez — What the Body Does Not Remember



Mimetic festival 2014 & Nothing

old vic tunnels old vic tunnelsThe vaults


Around this time last year, I saw a few puppetry performances at the Suspense festival (see my previous blog entry here), but for some reason, the festival is not taking place this year. However, all is not lost as there is Pie’s Mimetic Festival, a two week celebration of the emerging devised, physical and visual theatre, mime, puppetry and cabaret.

The last time I visited the Old Vic tunnels was when my friend and I saw the immersive and theatrical show by the cabaret group Boom Boom Club about 2 years ago. Now this unique and atmospheric venue has been transformed into an arts platform and renamed The Vaults with several theatre spaces, gallery, bar and a screening room filled with deck chairs.


The vaults


As always, I found it hard to pick from an interesting array of performances, but I settled to see two within one evening. The first one I saw was “First Draft” created by Open Heart Surgery, and brilliantly performed by the two young and talented Charlotte Baseley and Louise Callaghan.

Open Heart Surgery Theatre is a new London-based physical theatre company founded by two Canadian theatre artists. Their show, “First Draft” is inspired by conversations about war and E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stop”, which explores a fast-paced world in contrast to a future world that exists in a protection unit far away from the Earth’s surface. The two performers play a multitude of characters, and they provide many sweet, amusing and provocative moments throughout the show. However, I feel that the show is trying to convey too many ideas and messages; though many of them are undeveloped, which is a shame because I really enjoyed the performances by the two young actresses. The concept ‘less is more’ applies to not only in design; in this case, the show would be much better if less ideas and messages are crammed into such a short performance time.

‘Buddhism: is it just for Losers?’ from Silvia Mercuriali & Matt Rudkin on Vimeo.


The second show was “Buddbism: Is it just for losers?” created and performed by Brighton-based company, Inconvenient spoof. I have to admit that it was the title that grabbed by attention when I was looking at the programme. And funny enough, the show’s creator, Matt Rudkin did mention why he chose this title at the end of the show.

This show is fun, satirical and bonkers, and it captures what British humour is all about. Having lived in the States for a few years, I realised that although the British and Americans share the same language, everything else seems miles apart especially when it comes to humour. In fact, not that many Americans ‘get’ the British houmour, and I cannot imagine this play being produced by none other than a Brit!

The show is about Matt Rudkin, whose mind is full of rational thoughts; he just can’t help thinking and analysing everything and so he has to see alternative therapy to ‘cure’ this symptom. A very intriguing and ‘current’ topic for a theatre show.

I think the first half of the show is more engaging, whereas the second half is slightly loose and inconsistent. Having said that, it is still a hilarious and thought-provoking show with excellent performances and creative use of props, costumes and puppetry.

Throughout the show, there is no mention of Buddhism until the very end, only at the sharing session! Having been to many Buddhist groups and retreats, I am familiar with the terms they use, and so I found the inside jokes particularly hilarious. I suspect that Matt is a practitioner, but it’s interesting that he is able to step back and poke fun at the practice (though not in a nasty way). Not only do they mention John Cage‘s silent piece, 4′33″, they also invite the audience to meditate with them. I have never meditated at a theatre performance before, but I guess there is always a first time for everything!


The vaults camden people's theatre

Left: Pi’s bar at The Vaults; Right: Preshow at the Camden People’s theatre including audience and performers


I have read quite a lot of positive reviews about “Nothing”, an award-winning play by a new graduate company, Barrel Organ from the University of Warwick. This is their debut show and it is series of eight monologues spoken by characters feeling a disconnect with the world around them, and is performed in a fresh and unrehearsed order. Upon arrival at the Camden People’s theatre, the audience (and performers) would wait in the cafe area, and later be led into a room of random seating. A member of the audience is then asked to pick a number and a name out of three, then the named performer who is sitting among the audience would start the monologue.

Throughout the show, seemingly random people among the audience would suddenly start talking, move around the room and at times, monologues would even overlap. This refreshing way of performing is highly engaging because you are never quite sure if the person next to you or opposite you is a performer or not. The show is simple and yet inventive, and the monologues are related to issues that young people are facing today and our dysfunctional society. Interestingly, the performers are dressed as themselves (they all carry bags and coats like the rest of the audience) and they use their real names, so this breaks down the barrier between the performers and the audience. And since the first monologue is chosen by the audience, the order of the show is never the same and the performers would improvise a new cut with every performance. This style also captures the ephemeral and transitory quality of theatre brilliantly.

It is always encouraging to see creative work produced by new voices and talents, I will certainly look forward to seeing the company’s future productions.


The Mimetic festival is running until 29th November at The Vaults, Leake St London SE1 7NN.



Cross Cultural Live Art Project 2014

haggerston the proud archivisthanqing miao

 Top: Haggerston; Bottom: Hanqing Miao’s performance


I used to spend much my time hanging out at the ICA, yet since summer, I have been frequently visiting another new arts/cultural space, The Proud Archivist in Haggerston (an area where I was not familiar with before). I have never eaten in the restaurant downstairs, but I have attended different events in its upper gallery space related to arts, coffee and business. The space seems to be a popular venue for events hiring.

Over a week ago, I attended the “Cross-Cultural Live Art Project” led by an independent curator-partnership, Something Human as part of the SEA (Southeast Asian) ArtsFest 2014. The event brought together Southeast Asian and UK/European artists for a 2-day symposium, showcasing performances, talks and a screening programme exploring gendered/feminist notions of “rites”.

I arrived in the afternoon during a panel discussion on ‘Curating live aer in public spaces in UK and Asia’. It was interesting to hear the curators sharing their experiences and obstacles they faced in curating live art in Asia due to cultural differences. The discussion was followed by three live art performances by young Southeast Asian and British practitioners.


hanqing miaoKelvin Atmadibrata's 'Yaranaika'jonathan colemanMarc Hagan-Guirey Kelvin Atmadibrata's 'Yaranaika'jonathan coleman

Top left: Hanqing + Megan; Top Middle & 2nd row: Kelvin Atmadibrata’s ‘Yaranaika’; Top right and bottom: Jonathan Coleman’s ‘How to be a man’


The first act, “Hanqing + Megan: The Calligrapher” was performed by London-based Singaporean artist Hanqing Miao on the issue of identity, roots, culture and on being a foreigner living in London. The second act was Indonesian artist Kelvin Atmadibrata‘s “Yaranaika on Japanese pop culture, masculinity, sexuality and cultural identification ( a lot of dancing with leeks as props). And the final act was “How to be a man” created and performed by British artist Jonathan Coleman exploring the changing image and role of men today.

During the break, I met a Brazilian performance artist who moved to London 6 months ago, and we had a stimulating conversation on feminism, gender issues and the problems facing Brazil at the moment ( serious topics for an initial conversation)!


hattie Newman mayuko FujinoshotopopshotopopshotopopMarc Hagan-Guirey IMG_1457

Top left: Hattie Newman; Top right: New York-based Japanese artist Mayuko Fujino; 2nd row: Work by London-based Shotopop; Bottom left: Marc Hagan-Guirey‘s Horrogami


I was also lucky to catch the Paper Cut exhibition before it ended on the next day. The exhibition showcased paper cut work by 25 paper craft artists from around the world. It is rare to find exhibitions focusing solely on paper crafts, so it was an unique opportunity to see some stunning paper craft display. There are regular art and design-related exhibitions being exhibited at the gallery space, so check out the website or sign up to their newsletters to find out more.


The Proud Archivist – 2-10 Hertford Road, London N1 5ET.




SIRO-A in London



I remember seeing the promotional poster for the Japanese multimedia theatrical performance group SIRO-A in London last year, and it triggered my interest to see the show. But as always, with so much happening in this city, it is easy to miss events even if you made a mental note of it.

Thankfully, and to my pleasant surprise, I was invited to the preview of the show this year, their third successive year in London. I have heard a lot of praises for the award-winning group ( it won Mervyn Stutter’s ‘Spirit Of The Fringe’ award at the Edinburgh Festival in 2011) prior to the show, but I didn’t want to set my expectation too high in case of disappointment. Now I can honestly say that the group deserves all the praises and I enjoyed the show immensely!


SIRO-A siro-a


Often described as Japan’s answer to the Blue Man Group, SIRO-A composed of 6 male members is unlike anything that I have seen before. The name itself reveals something interesting, aside from ‘white/colourless’ (hence, they all perform with white faces), it also means ‘Belong to no group, impossible to be define as anybody’. The show fuses stunning digital-generated visual effects with choreographed mime, dance, and electro music.

It is hard to write a review on this show because there is so much packed in the hour-long show. Normally, I don’t like to use the term ‘mind-blowing’, but in this case, it is quite fitting since the show stimulates the audience’s sensory system in every way. If I have to dissect the show for this review, I would categorise into three parts: visual effects, sound & light and performance & dance.

Perhaps it is due to my design background, what stands out for me most is the show’s strong and bold use of graphical visuals. The Japanese have always been known for their excellent graphic design and innovative digital graphics, and this show demonstrate it perfectly. My favourite section is the group’s homage to the cinema when the performance is acted out in accordance to the bold typography that appears on the screen behind. It is humourous, clever and highly creative.



Admittedly, I am not that into techno music ( though I did listen to YMO when I was younger and was a big fan of Ryuichi Sakamoto), but the music here works well with the digital graphics and the overall tone of the show. It is dynamic, upbeat, and accompanied by lots of flashing lights, so it makes you feel like you are inside a club except that you are not permitted to stand up and dance.

If we remove all the show’s cool technology, we are left with the core, which is the performance itself. And I am glad to say that the four front performers (with two at the back in charge of video and music) are superb, they are well-synchronised, skillful and precise (this is crucial when they have to interact with the images behind them). But best of all, the audience can feel their energy and playfulness, which is extremely infectious. And the last section involves the audience’s participation, which makes the show more interactive and engaging.



The show is suitable for all ages, it is cool, fun, entertaining and stimulating. It is not a show that requires intellectual debate, so you just have to go and enjoy the ride. My only complaint is more to do with the venue, because I think it needs to be performed in a more spacious and contemporary setting. The traditional setting with narrow velvet red seats in a dark basement is more suited for cabarets or musicals, but not a technodelic show like this. I hope that the organiser will change the venue to a more suitable one next year, perhaps they can consider the legendary Ministry of Sound?


SIRO-A will run until 11th Jan 2015 at Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, London, WC2H 7BX.

London’s immersive theatre trend

The jetty

‘The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face’ at The Jetty, Greenwich Peninsula


I am always grateful that I grew up and live in a part of world where cultural arts are highly valued, respected and accessible to everyone. I would not be the same person if I did not get the opportunities to study art and music at school, and be exposed to world-class art exhibitions and theatres at a young age. Surprisingly, I still have a vague memory of “An Inspector calls”, a play that I highly enjoyed when I was 15 years old.

If you are a theatre-lover, then London (not New York, according to a recent report in FT) is the theatre capital of the world. We have countless of West End and off West End theatres, two opera houses, open-air theatres at Regent’s park and Shakespeare‘s Globe ( tip: avoid going when it’s over 25 degrees), fringe festivals, and site-specific theatres.

Although I have enjoyed many West End plays ( I am not a musical fan), I often find them to be overpriced and over-hyped. Personally, I prefer smaller and quirkier theatres where the settings are more intimate and you can see the performances up close. One of my favourites ( a well-hidden secret) is the 45-min long Lunchbox theatre at Bridewell theatre near Fleet Street. Set in the derelict swimming pool hall ( a rather small one) of the St Bride Foundation Institute, the theatre offers an eclectic range of plays, musicals and ballet at lunchtime and in the evenings. Not only prices are low, the place is never too busy nor touristy and best of all, you can have your packed lunch while watching the performances.


regent's park open air theatre Shakespeare's Globe

Left: Regent’s park’s open air theatre; right: Shakespeare’s Globe theatre


In recent years though, immersive theatre has become a big trend in the theatre world thanks to companies like Shunt, Punchdrunk, You Me Bum Bum Train, as well as the highly successful Secret Cinema. Instead of sitting in their seats quietly watching the shows, audiences are called to take part and even interact with the actors directly. In one of my previous entries, I mentioned about Rift‘s 12-hour long Macbeth that took place at Balfron tower this summer (tickets were all sold out very quickly). And this concept is elevated even further at Pamela and Sharlene’s Tack-On Tours, where their architectural walking tours are merged with immersive theatre.


tack-on-tours90 Long Acretack-on-tourstack on tours central st giles court

Pamela and Sharlene’s Tack-On Tours: ‘The ugliest buildings in London’ walk


As part of the London’s festival of architecture, I attended the two hour long ‘The ugliest buildings in London’ walk with the two artists in June and had a blast. Yes, it was awkward, embarrassing ( we all had to wear fluorescent orange safeguard high-viz vests and listen to them via a megaphone around the West end) but highly entertaining and captivating at the same time. Participants are asked to take part in different ways and it is unlike any other walks that I have attended before. I spoke to the artists after the walk and they told me that the concept arrived as a result of their passion for acting and architecture. Our walk was their second one and they have already had to handle participants who resisted to engage in the act ( there is always a party pooper at every party). I thought they did a fantastic job and the walk enabled me to miggle with other participants and we ended up having drinks together after the walk!


eat at camden fringe phoenix arts club

Left: ‘Eat’ at the The Camden Fringe; Right: The well-hidden Phoenix arts club


Having attended some shows at the previous The Camden Fringe festival, I was keen to see some performances this year. Yet with over 200 productions, it was a challenging to select just a few to attend. I randomly picked a few and as it turned out, they were all immersive performances where audiences would either take part or be involved somehow.

Since my Italian friend was in town, I thought it would be a good idea for her to experience something unique in London. I picked ‘Eat’, an immersive play about food, family and love produced by a new company called Angry Bairds at Lov’edu Gallery in Camden’s Stables market. The setting is a dinner party where actors would sit amongst the audience and interact with them (like their guests) at the same time. Each person has a plate of strange-looking but edible food in front of them, and we are encouraged to eat it. The intimate setting makes the audience feel like they are at a dinner party with a group of strangers, which is fun and a bit awkward at the same time. The acting by the cast members is convincing and it is particularly interesting to see how they interact with the audience throughout the play. My friend and I enjoyed really the show and it got me excited about the upcoming shows to be followed.

The second show I attended was ‘Reality Abuse’ created and performed by critically acclaimed magician and mind reader S1L3NC3 at the Dublin Castle. A group of about 12 people are lead into a dark room and are seated at a table with the magician, and throughout the interactive performance he does not say a word. Although slightly confusing at times, it is an unique and strange experience as you have no idea what to expect. There are mind tricks and illusions, and if you love David Blaine, then you are certainly going to enjoy this.

The last show was ‘Le Jet de Sang’ inspired by Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre of Cruelty at the Phoenix arts club. Directed by London Fringe Award winner, Mike Miller and performed by the newly formed theatre group composed of five female. As the audience enters a cabaret style setting, the 4 masked actors are already seated by the tables with glasses of drinks on some of them. The audience would pick their seats and the performers would move around the room interact with the audience throughout the show. It is hard to follow what is going on because there is no narrative and the acts change frequently without much notice.

As much as I want to like this, I found it hard to engage and enjoy the performance, and I am not even sure why. Perhaps it is to do with the disjointed style or acting method but something was lacking for me and I could not get into it. As always, experimental arts are never intended to be crowd pleasers, just like Shunt‘s latest work, ‘The boy who climbed out of his face’ at The Jetty in Greenwich…


the jetty the jettythe jetty the jetty o2


Being the pioneer of immersive theatre, Shunt‘s new work is all about the multi-sensory experience. Not much information was revealed before the show except for the location of the performance, which is within some shipping containers on a jetty in Greenwich.

My friend and I had a bit of difficulties locating the exact position as there are few direction signs until we reached the pier. But as we were approaching towards the location, we were immediately impressed by the setting. And when we finally got past the ticketing area, we were told to wait in the outdoor bar area until our number has been called ( stamped on our hands at the entrance). Then we were told to take off our shoes and socks and put them into white shoe boxes (which we had to carry throughout the performance).

So what happened next? I am sure that every participant would have their own view and interpretation on this but if I can summarise it, I would say the experience brought back memories of me walking through a haunted mansion at an amusement/ theme park when I was a kid. Yet what I saw reminded me of the dream scenes in ‘Twin Peaks’ as I was almost expecting a dwarf in red suit to suddenly appear and dance in front of us!

This show is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, because not only it has no narrative, it is disorientating, awkward and uncomfortable. Being barefoot allows the participants to feel the texture and temperature of the ground in each room, which includes pebbles, sand, plastic, TV screens, concrete (or something similar) and artificial grass etc. If you want to make sense out of this, well, you can’t and you are meant to either. This is probably difficult for many people because the search for narratives and meanings are so ingrained in us that we perpetually seek to label, analyse or make sense of our experiences and the people we encounter. The show challenges us to abandon this habit and allow our sensations, feelings and emotions to take over.

The rather short and surreal experience inside the containers ends very abruptly ( I assume it is intentional), and it is followed by a finale outdoor… After the mellow last act, my friend and I had drinks and snacks at the pop-up bar (blankets are provided) and then took the Emirates air line (our first ride) to enjoy the beautiful view of the area from the top. I guess for those who are not fond of experimental theatre performance, there is always the cable car ride to compensate for the ‘trek’ to this part of London!

The boy who climbed out of his face‘ is on until 28th Sept, with 5 performances every night from 6:30 onwards.