03 October 2009 (gig)
04 October 2009
Sun Wukong is the main character in the classical Chinese epic novel 'Journey to the West’. In the novel, he accompanies the monk Xuanzang on an adventurous and challenging journey to retrieve the Buddhist sutras from India. It’s a story overflowing with magic and mysticism and plenty of cheeky monkey mischief. Those old enough to admit it will remember the Japanese TV show 'Monkey’ when it first run in the UK in the 80’s. More recently, Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn performed their own adaptation of the Chinese opera, 'Monkey: Journey to the West’. Tonight’s production may not have been as publicised as Mr Albarn’s, however CHi2 still presented a richly talented and engaging performance of contemporary and traditional melodic and rhythmic fusions.
CHi2 are British-born Chinese violinists, Liz and Sarah. They are both classically trained and adaptable to a variety of other instruments and percussion. Sarah also studied the 'jinghu’ and 'erhu’ in Beijing at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Opera. They are both certainly highly skilled and ooze an almost effortless confidence. This talent has led them to tour with the likes of Moby, Gnarls Barkley, Boy George, Nelly Furtado, Lamb and Anastacia, to name but few.
With this, their latest project, the sisters have composed an original soundtrack to complement a projected film interpretation, with Tom E. Morrison (ex Underworld) producing the score and actor Tom Wu lending his talents, playing the role of the Monkey King and bringing some narrative to the audio-visuals that carry the story.
Liz and Sarah certainly look the part, all dressed up in costumes by Mao Couture. The score is also well composed and well performed with a strong, but subtle rhythm section that includes special guest Kuljit Bhamra providing tables. Unfortunately, the venue itself imposed it’s own restrictions on what lighting and effects could by employed to augment the atmosphere (the smoke machine had to be left out because the smoke alarms on stage couldn’t be isolated!?!), and the richness of the production also felt compromised. Also, despite a charismatic and engaging score, and talented musicianship, the overall production lacked due to the quality of the film projection that felt hurried and incomplete, along with a narration that was at times, difficult to follow.
However, it takes a lot of cash and time to make a 90 minute movie, and with what limited resources CHi2 had they certainly gave it a good go! Fundamentally, Chi2’s musical adaptation of this 'modern Beijing opera’ is a vibrant one.
The 21 track CD of the show has recently been released on Big Sky Song.