ShakaRa Reviews ‘The Five & The Prophecy of Prana’ @ The Barbican

five_and_the_prophecy_of_prana

The production quite simply exceeded all my expectation. I entered the arena with high anticipation, having previously had the pleasure of interviewing the main men behind Boy Blue Ent. I was told poignantly by Mickey J that I would have seen nothing like it. He was absolutely correct.

The Five & the Prophecy of Prana is such a cohesive fusion of art, genre and narrative, when you consider all three dimensions in unison, it’s hard to find too many flaws in its execution. From the music, the choreography, the set/graphics, narrative style and even the over dubbing dialogue, everything seemed to lend it self to a Hip-Hop, Martial Arts, Manga epic, which is exactly what the creators set out to create. Even the architecture and décor of the auditorium seemed to have remoulded itself in service to the show that was on display.

From the very beginning, The Five is brought to life by a very strong storyline, and very strong distinguishable characters. You are immediately impressed by the animated graphic elements and how they really bring the cinematic comic book feel to life. Effective use was made of the classic over dubbing style, well known to English speaking lovers of Kung Fu movies. Having become such a standard device, the dubbing lends a strange authenticity to the show, while its comedic effect makes it a particularly endearing feature.

Indeed the dialogue is strong, but the strength of The Five is that it is truly the dance that carries the narrative. As a man of words, I was struck by how easy it could have been to piece together each scene with dialogue. That realisation lead me to truly appreciate the efforts that must have gone into making sure the dance, as opposed to the dialogue, told the story. Hip-Hop dance and Martial Arts in many ways share a natural synergy. But the utmost credit must go to Kenrick H2O Sandy for the sheer brilliance with which he has made this manifest. The choreography merges the two styles in such a way that by the end it becomes difficult to identify the distinguishable elements.

And through it all the narrative remains extremely prominent and particularly strong. This is not a thin, under developed storyline designed purely for the purpose of displaying some excellent dance routines. The narrative is driven by every movement, every scene, every routine – nothing is wasted. The journey of The Five from young delinquents to Kung Fu masters is especially well dramatised. A fine expression of both synchronicity and individuality as each character is developed enough to leave their own particular mark your consciousness as you watch the story unfold.

Special note must go to the efforts of Mikey J for the soundtrack to this show. Considering the show is 90% movement, the string that holds all of that together is the sound. Mikey has composed a fine array beats, melodies and sound effects that completely harmonise with the prominent genres. A seamless fusion of Hip-Hop, Traditional Japanese/Chinese string and even a touch of Afro-House are brought together with great cinematic brilliance. The music is its own beast. Far from being mere back ground accompaniment, before the stage set, it is the rhythm and sound that primarily moulds the scene, and creates the world that this story exists within. I would seriously encourage the purchase of the soundtrack CD available at the venue.

Personally, standout performances include the central character, Wang Tang played by Tommy Franzen, the snake style of Soo Lin and Kofi ‘Klik’ Mongo’s absolutely masterful Hip-Hop interpretation of the Scorpion style. Any scene featuring Wang Tang and would be nemesis Choo Fang in battle makes for epic viewing. Both Gorilla styles, which made good use of Crump, also stood out.

But to say that is almost an injustice, because in truth, The Five is an exceedingly well cast show from top to bottom. Each performer is evidently a master practitioner in their craft and great respect must go to each them individually and collectively for what was brought to the stage. Wang Tang’s Drunken Master, and a very creative routine in which Stylouse (one of The Five) is battling ‘The Ghost’ are excellent. But the most visually striking scenes feature almost the entire cast in unison, particular those depicting the journey of The Five.

The narrative style is very thorough and some viewers may find it taxing, which in truth is completely in keeping with the styles the piece so delicately emulates. It would seem that this was unapologetically deliberate and if you are prepared to stick with it, you will be rewarded. In someways this is easily done as the show would have been impressive if it were just a series of dance routines.

But it is not. It is the Five & The Prophecy of Prana. Both as a critic and a practitioner in Theatre Arts, I can certain say it is without a doubt one of the best and most well put together productions I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

The last London performance of Five & The Prophecy of Prana before it goes on tour is Saturday 4th October 2014. To book tickets go to: http://www.boyblueent.com/site/?portfolio=the-five-the-prophecy-of-prana-2014

 

 

review by @ShakaRaBKS for the british blacklist

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