Kakilang Festival 2023 programme announced!

Kakilang(formerly Chinese Arts Now CAN) has announced the full programme and dates for its unique multi-art form festival which celebrates the work of artists from across the wide spectrum of East and Southeast Asian heritages. Eight extraordinary events platforming theatre, dance, visual arts, live music, cabaret and puppetry will be staged from the 21 February – 23 April 2023 in a selection of London’s leading arts venues including the BarbicanOmnibus TheatreRich MixShoreditch Town HallTwo Temple Place and The Yard.

Opening the festival in spectacular fashion at the Barbican in February 2023 is Kakilang’s HOME X, an innovative new show designed to thrill audiences in an ambitious live performance meets virtual world. Created to push the boundaries of theatre beyond our current imaginations. HOME X fuses cutting edge technology with theatre, music, gaming and VR technology. Exploring themes of roots and belonging, destruction and renewal, audiences will hear moving real-life testimonies of home and migration. Created with artists performing in real-time in London and Hong Kong, a visually stunning virtual land inhabited by magical creatures will be seen by the live audience via an impressive 270-degree projection presenting a mythological and yet futuristic experience all at the same time.

Kakilang’s eclectic festival programme, spread across 8 weeks, also includes: STATE-LESS,a major co-production with Two Temple Place of an eclectic visual arts exhibition bringing together for the first time the work of 10 internationally acclaimed East and Southeast Asian artists using mediums including film, digital and photography to explore the tangible borders and invisible boundaries that define their identities; TASTE is a radical celebration of Queer Southeast and East Asian artistry, a queer cabaret night hosted by Princess Xixi featuring everything from drag to dance; EVERY DOLLAR IS A SOLDIER/WITH MONEY YOU’RE A DRAGON by Daniel York Loh, apart gig-theatre, part spoken word rap and part concert lament on the immigrant experience, particularly the harsh travails of the impoverished first Chinese settlers in London, will have its live PREMIERE, seen in the setting it was originally intended for. Accompanied by a mix of electronic music composed by An-Ting安婷 and featuring world-leading Chinese classical instrumentation artists Cheng Yu on the pipa and Wang Xiao on the erhu; LIGHT VESSEL,the continuation of an avant-garde durational art performance by contemporary circus artists Hazel Lamand Lucia Palladino explores the ‘power in gentleness’; Acclaimed theatre maker and performer Tobi Poster Su presents THE LONESOME DEATH OF ENG BUNKER, a new gothic horror tale of the final hours of Eng (of Chang and Eng fame) utilising puppetry, music and striptease. Legend of the contemporary dance scene Jo Fong, with clown and circus director George Orange, present their hit physical theatre show THE REST OF OUR LIVES, a cabaret of life and near death featuring dance, circus and games. Closing the festival on a high note, acclaimed singer/songwriter Emmy The Great returns with her first major gig in two years, She will be performing an exciting EP of new material exploring her Hong Kong past and her British present commissioned by Kakilang as well as a set of old favourites.

Kakilang’s Artistic Director An-Ting Chang says: “I started Kakilang Festival with the intention of offering unique perspectives from a variety of artists to help bridge the gap in the understanding of Southeast and East Asian cultures here. But through listening to all of their different and fascinating attitudes and philosophies, I myself have learnt a lot about the place I originally called home. For this Kakilang Festival, we gather “our kakilang” from many different places and with different disciplines and art forms and invite audiences to question the reality of state boundaries, racial stereotypes and other failures of the imagination that still exist in peoples’ minds. “We are all migrant’s of the Earth”, as a HOME X interviewee rightly said.”

Associate Artistic Director Daniel York Loh adds: “Kakilang: means our people. Our place. Our aching for Home. These yearnings resound through our entire Festival programme this year – the first since our rebranding and restructuring. Putting this Festival together has been a humbling and profound experience for everyone involved and I hope it resonates as much for our audiences, our Kakilang. I have a feeling it will.”

Kakilang is immensely gratified that the Bagri Foundation is supporting this year’s festival, which welcomes artists from a wide spectrum of the Southeast and East Asian diaspora including China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the UK.

In detail, KAKILANG 2023’s programme will include:

  • HOME X is the PREMIERE of an innovative live performance combining theatre, music, gaming and VR technology created with artists in London and Hong Kong. Exploring themes of roots and belonging, destruction and renewal, this ground-breaking experimental performance features live music, dance and moving real-life testimony of home and migration. Audiences will discover a stunning virtual land inhabited by magical creatures (controlled live on stage by gamer Mia Foo) on a panoramic 270-degree projection. This virtual world will also connect performers in Hong Kong and on stage in London in real-time using depth-sensing cameras which capture 3D video. With original electronic music by An-Ting 安婷 performed in the UK, accompanied by soprano Colette Lamin Hong Kong and live break dance by choreographers Si Rawlinson(Kakilang Associate Artistic Director) in the UK and Suen Namin Hong Kong. HOME X is co-produced by Kakilang and their Hong Kong partner, Don’t Believe in Style. Si Rawlinson says about Home X: “Pushing the boundaries of how we can connect through art, where audiences, gamers, and artists from across the world create a story together in the moment, has the potential to redefine how we interact with each other and the world around us.”

Lovers of digital gaming can explore the visually stunning metaverse of HOME X in an online experience which will run parallel with the live experience.

  • STATE-LESS is the PREMIERE of a stunning visual arts exhibition bringing together for the first time 10 internationally acclaimed East and Southeast Asian artists, exploring the tangible borders and invisible boundaries that define their identities. From historical migration routes of refugees in Vietnam, urban sounds of Taiwan, post-Tsunami Japan, to permaculture in Hong Kong, the works which include the medium of film and photography will present aspects of the region that are not often encountered by mainstream Western audiences. The participating artists include: Tiffany Chung(Vietnam/US), Jess Lau(Hong Kong), Natalie Lo Lai Lai (Hong Kong), Donald Shek (UK), Wu Tsan-Cheng (Taiwan), Wang Wei (China/UK), Li Yongzheng(China), Law Yuk-Mui(Hong Kong), Robert Zhao Ren Hui (Singapore) and Tsui Kuang-Yu(Taiwan).The exhibition is conceived and curated by designer, artist and Kakilang Associate Artistic Director Ling Tan in collaboration with Two Temple Place. Tan says: “This exhibition shows different facets of the Southeast and East Asia region, facets that are often unknown to mainstream western audiences, I hope that we can explore questions surrounding how we as individuals and as a collective, make sense of the environment we live in, the tangible borders and invisible boundaries that define who we are, its politics, the relationship between people, with nature, and broadly, the world.”
  • TASTE is a night of Queer East and Southeast Asian talent. Bringing together some of the most eclectic artists from across the diaspora for a joyous, irreverent and radical celebration of Queer East and Southeast Asian artistry. The night will feature everything from drag to dance, with performances from prominent artists in the community like Duane Nasis and Lusty Lovelace, alongside the sensual sounds of Akiko Haruna, Jason Kwan, Henjila and event curator Princess Xixi. Also featuring delicious DJ sets from Oh Annie Oh, Rowenneand Chooc Ly Tan.
  • EVERY DOLLAR IS A SOLDIER/WITH MONEY YOU’RE A DRAGON is part gig-theatre, part spoken word rap, part concert. The thrilling live PREMIEREof Kakilang’s 2021 award-winning digital collaboration with Two Temple Place. Daniel York Loh presents a powerful lament on the immigrant experience and the harsh travails of the impoverished first Chinese settlers in London. Originally commissioned as a live performance, but moved online due to the pandemic, the show now returns in the evocative setting it was initially intended for as a hybrid live and digital performance. Accompanied by a mix of electronic music composed by An-Ting 安婷featuring world leading traditional instrumentation artists Cheng Yuon the pipa andWang Xiaoon the erhu.
  • LIGHT VESSEL features dance and contemporary circus artists Hazel Lam and Lucia Palladino. Lam places feminine movement centre stage and explores the idea of ‘power in gentleness’. The usage of coils of PVC tubing and tackling its physicality and boundaries is Lam’s on-going attempt to move away from traditional circus equipment. This durational avant-garde performance piece challenges what we think circus equipment is as well as what a circus body can do.
  • THE LONESOME DEATH OF ENG BUNKER is the second instalment from Wattle and Daub’s Artistic Director Tobi Poster-Suaboutreal-life twin brothers Eng and Chang Bunker. Siamese immigrants and entertainers who carved out an uneasy space in the rotten heart of the American dream, the two were conjoined by a band of cartilage and shared a liver. In this PREMIERE Poster-Su imagines the gothic horror story of Eng’s final hours using puppetry, music and striptease.
  • THE REST OF OUR LIVES is presented by legend of the contemporary dance scene Jo Fong and clown and circus director George Orange. Jo and George are international artists with 100 years of life experience between them. Armed with a soundtrack of floor-fillers, a book of raffle tickets and a sprinkling of eco-friendly optimism this is a feel-good physical theatre, multimedia and dance show not to be missed.
  • EMMY THE GREAT. The acclaimed singer/songwriter performs a one-off gig featuring a selection of old favourites and new songs – Song Cycle for an Integrated Self– specially commissioned as part of Kakilang Festival. She uses sound and song to explore her Hong Kong past and her British present. The show will be immersive, warm and intimate, breaking down barriers between audience and performer, and playing with the power of sound to spark time travel. PREMIERE

Kakilang Festival 2023 will take place from Tuesday 21st February to Sunday 23 April 2023 at the BarbicanOmnibus TheatreRich MixShoreditch Town HallTwo Temple Place and The Yard amongst other venues. To find out more about the festival, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop