SPIRITS 魅 | Hong Kong, Cultural Centre

This Covid-savvy two-hander promises “piano solo storytelling”, with a pianist (award-winning Taiwanese Yen Chun-chieh) and a storyteller (award-winning Taiwanese legend Sylvia Chang). But this cinema-style concert livestream is more like something to while away the hours at home in lockdown, not something to buy a premium ticket and risk sitting in a theatre for.

The programme of Ravel and Liszt (as well as others) is all outrageously difficult, and there is very little respite across the ninety minutes (allowing thirty more minutes for an interval, as well as a lengthy introduction on Zuni Icosahedron‘s new season). Yen’s offering is more or less technically flawless, but gives the impression that the repertoire is a difficult beast to be tamed, rather than an awakening of spirits. The internet-friendly, low-quality video and audio stream doesn’t help.

The aim to foster a cultural connection between Hong Kong and Taiwan is no doubt a noble one. But then — why is all the music European? Why is all the spoken word European, and translated into Mandarin? Who in Hong Kong wants to hear Shakespeare performed in Mandarin, which Chang does reading statically from a lectern?

Perhaps the most arresting theatrical moment is the pre-show: a faintly tinkling bell ushers us into the auditorium, where we are met with a giant red curtain and a small, wintry tree, caught in a blood-red spotlight. Sadly, this appears to have nothing to do with the rest of the show.

Zuni Icosahedron presents Spirits for two nights only, 23 – 24 October 2020.

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