A CHRISTMAS CAROL | London, Dominion Theatre

Recommended

The critically acclaimed concert production of Alan Menken’s A Christmas Carol (1994), with the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO), is back on the West End for the fourth year. A soaring Broadway score, the fantastic sounds of a 24-piece LMTO, and a brilliant all-star cast: ​A Christmas Carol ​is perfect family entertainment for the holiday season.

Dickens’ classic festive tale has a brilliant cast this year, starring actor and comedian Brian Conley​ (​9 to 5: The Musical​) as Ebenezer Scrooge, who leads an ensemble cast of over fifty, including ​Jacqueline Jossa​ (EastEnders​), Busted’s ​Matt Willis​, ​Lucie Jones (Waitress​) and ​Sandra Marvin​ (Waitress, Hairspray​).

The creative team could not be more glittering, either. Music is by ​Alan Menken​ (Disney’s ​The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), with lyrics by Lynne Ahrens​ (​Ragtime, Anastasia​), and a book by ​Mike Ockrent​ (​Crazy For You​). Fresh from directing LMTO’s Candide​, Shaun Kerrison directs, with musical staging by ​Tim Jackson. Sound design is by ​Nick Lidster​ for Autograph, design is by ​Dora Schweitzer​, lighting design is by ​Mike Robertson​, and projection design is by ​George Reeve.

In line with the latest government guidelines, ​the Dominion Theatre is partnered with the Society of London Theatre’s “​See it Safely”​ campaign. The production will be COVID secure, with measures including face masks, distanced seating, temperature checking, contactless ticketing, social distancing, cashless payment, enhanced cleaning, and sanitiser stations.

Playing in the West End 7 December 2020 to 2 January 2021 at the Dominion Theatre.

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HK BALLET SEASON 2020/2021 | Hong Kong

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Don Quixote | Li Lin and Hong Kong Ballet Dancers | Photographer: Conrad Dy-Liacco | Courtesy of Hong Kong Ballet

We could not be more thrilled that Hong Kong Ballet, Asia’s premier ballet company, is pirouetting, glissading and jetéing back into live performance starting 30 October 2020.

This new season is bursting with classics, including: Don Quixote (30 October 2020); The Nutcracker (18 December 2020); Artistic Director Septime Webre’s Ballet Classics for Children: Cinderella, featuring a stripped-down and narrated version of Prokofiev’s score (30 January 2021); Balanchine’s Jewels (21 May 2021); and Septime Webre’s new Romeo + Juliet, with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta on Prokofiev’s iconic score (18 June 2021).

In addition, Hong Kong Ballet will be running turn(it)out festival for two weeks at West Kowloon Cultural District’s Freespace, kicking off with an opening gala on 29 January 2021. The Vivaldi / Handel Project follows on 5 February 2021, along with a ton of interactive, family-friendly activities and events throughout the two weeks.

Artistic Director Septime Webre says that the central theme for the new season is, quite simply, love: “The word “love” infuses absolutely everything at Hong Kong Ballet: love of being a dance artist, and love for our amazing city, which has seen and experienced so much this past year. Love fuels the dedicated work we do, and drives the innovative ways we engage with the community. Love is not about getting – it’s about giving.” Well, we certainly cannot wait to celebrate this love for ballet in Hong Kong again.

Read Hong Kong Ballet’s new brochure and get booking.

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XIN LI: SURE THINGS | Hong Kong, Mihn 宀 Gallery

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This free, one-night micro-exhibition of ten photo prints is typical of Mihn 宀 Gallery’s edgy, pop-up art space. It’s Xin Li’s first ever solo-exibition, but the Norwegian photographer’s distinctive style belies her years. She describes the slightly comical still-lifes as “self-portraits”: despite being photographed years apart from each other, there is a cohesiveness to this collection, hung from a central circular rail like socks on a washing line.

It’s clear to see Xin Li returning to her Chinese heritage in “Sweet Tooth”, with traditional Chinese coins packed into a grey, unappetising plate of jelly in a darkened room. Elsewhere, fine china chopsticks, and a face mask covered in kids’ plastic gems, also show us a kitschy, Asian aesthetic.

Mihn 宀 Gallery was established just a year and a half ago in October 2018, but the exhibitions are clearly popular with Hong Kong’s artsy crowd. Their goal is to provide an accessible and autonomous platform for emerging artists to exhibit and sell their work. The name “Mihn” (宀) derives from Chinese Radical 40, signifying a “roof”.

The gallery itself works out of a small hipster night-club on the fourth floor of a building in Sheung Wan, with the DJ booth occupying slightly more space than the artist’s own work. Exhibitions are free, with a reasonably-priced bar open to all. ADSL by PABO (aka Julien Pradier) is coming up next week, promising some pop-art style, computer-generated offerings.

Follow Mihn 宀 Gallery on Instagram.

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THE QUARANTINE QUILT | Cambridgeshire, online

Interview

Glimmer Theatre is a visual folk theatre ensemble who create female-led action adventure stories, and exciting community events.

Andrew Brock and Sophie Crawford talk about their new collaborative project.

What will The Quarantine Quilt look like when it’s complete?

SC: We don’t know yet! Come back in July and see.

AB: It will be an enormous patchwork quilt, made up entirely of little red and white patches, which will ultimately be displayed in libraries and museums across Cambridgeshire. People can submit their patches online or by post.

What inspired you to do this project?

AB: I’m from Cambridge originally, and Cambridgeshire County Council approached us for their new initiative, The Library Presents: in your house.

SC: We wanted to channel the lockdown life into something collaborative and artistic, and The Library Presents are producing this project.

AB: On Zoom, when you have a group call, it looks like a patchwork quilt. I thought that would be an amazing starting point for a project. Millions of individual squares of light, making up our isolated population. We want to draw those squares together literally and physically into a hybrid of physical and digital art making.

What sort of things are you looking for?

AB: We are very open-minded!

SC: It’s a chance for everyone to create something inspired by their time in lockdown. It could be a symbol of the virus like a facemask; or it could be something wonderful like a bird. I’m excited to see what patches people come up with.

How do people get involved?

AB: We are particularly looking for people to make real-life patches with needle and thread. We will send all the materials!

SC: Even if you’ve never picked up a needle and thread before – we want to hear from you! Just go on the website, it’s all there. You can submit digitally or you can request patches to be posted to your house.

Visit the Glimmer Theatre website to design your own patch and get involved in The Quarantine Quilt.

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INNER GUIDANCE RETREAT | Hill Farm, Suffolk

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Directions to Jo de Rosa’s Quantum Sobriety Inner Guidance retreat in Suffolk needed no instruction to the taxi driver. ‘Everyone knows it,’ he laughed. ‘People come away with smiles on their faces!’ As we curved along country lanes skimming the edges of fields, he confided, ‘I haven’t drunk for 14 years. For the first year I avoided certain people and places because England has a drinking culture – you just can’t get away from it.’ He was right. A year sober and my life’s changed dramatically. People, places and things – old props and crutches – gone. In their place an unhealthy attachment to sugary fruit pastilles. Followed by uncomfortable questions. Who exactly was I under the numbing effects of booze that I’d relied on in good times and bad for more than 30 years? 

The warm smile on Jo’s face when she opened the door of the 16th century Grade II listed Tudor retreat near Lavenham was enough for me to know I was in the right place. Petite with long blonde hair, she ushered me in to the centre she started four years ago with her husband Dom, that offers coaching, workshops and retreats through the Quantum Sobriety programme. Like me, hundreds have walked through her door wanting to leave behind their current reality and choose a new and better one. 

‘Over the years I’ve been addicted to many different things, desperately craving the very thing that was destroying me. I overcame all my addictions to find freedom in my sobriety. Quantum Sobriety is not just about the removal of drugs and alcohol, it’s about removing all destructive behaviours and coming into alignment with your personal truth,’ she said.

The way to re-find yourself after a circuitous thirty year plus detour is through clean home-made vegan food to lighten your load, yoga and daily meditation to listen to your inner guru. So for the next four days I did just that as well as a cacao ceremony to open my heart chakra and an ancient sound healing meditation called a gong bath with Dom, that I swear catapulted me into the stratosphere where I hit the outer edges of a new galaxy. On my final day I went for a walk through a labyrinth designed by Dom – an ancient symbol representing a journey back to your centre and out into the world again.

By the time I got in my taxi to make my way home I had more than a big smile on my face. I felt a clarity that had eluded me for a long time and an itching in my fingers to finish writing my first children’s book. And not only did I find the doorway to move through to a new and better reality, I haven’t wanted a fruit pastille since…!

To find out more about Jo’s work and Quantum Sobriety visit innerguidance.co.uk 

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THE RIVER RUNNER | London, Streatham Space

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Glimmer Theatre’s exciting new family show comes back to London’s Streatham Space this February half term, for eight performances only, promising ice skating, magic and adventure – brought to life with stirring live music, and Glimmer Theatre’s trademark beautiful imagery, inspired by “A Rich Theatre by Little Means”.

Co-artistic director Sophie Crawford, who has also composed the show’s live music, most recently appeared in Warhorse and Amélie in the West End. She chalks the show’s success down to the passion of the whole company: “We are passionate about creating family theatre with an inspiring message,” she says. “I think it introduces children to characters and places they might never have encountered before.”

Co-artistic director and designer Andy Brock agrees: “The show is very entertaining, and rehearsals have been extremely playful, which I think comes through in performance, too. But at its core, The River Runner is a story about a strong young woman, who uses her talent and skill to change the world around her.”

It’s 1901 in Isleham village, Cambridgeshire, and Annabelle Howgego is the best ice skater for miles around. With metal skates strapped to her boots, Annabelle casts off her dull life as a scullery maid, and becomes a champion skater. But this year, something rises up from the frozen river, and sends the village into chaos. It’s down to Annabelle to save her village and solve the mystery of what lurks beneath the ice.

You can read our review of the show here.

The River Runner will be skating back into Streatham Space 20 – 23 February 2020.

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TITANIC: THE MUSICAL | Hong Kong, HKAPA Drama Theatre

Recommended

“We spent a really, really long time — much longer than any other show before — trying to work out the set design,” explains director Candice Caalsen, who is directing a cast of forty-two adults for the “Face Productions“ performances, and a cast of a hundred children aged 8-18 for the “Face Academy“ performances of this epic musical. “Of course, we didn’t want to make a boat, and then try and sink it. We’ve gone a bit more abstract.”

The five-time Tony award-winning 1997 Broadway musical approaches the historic tragedy of 1912 in a way completely different to the 1997 film. “We want to transport audiences to another era,” Caalsen explains. “It’s a real story, and all the characters are based on the real people who were on the Titanic, so every story you see is real. We definitely want people to go away feeling moved, and remembering such a historic tragedy.”

Both Face Academy and Face Productions rely on a cast of volunteers, but for the adult cast, at least, you can expect to see the lead roles played by trained professionals from all over the world, and all local Hong Kong talent.

There’s no live band (audiences will hear a fully customisable, “conducted” backing track with a bit of live keyboard), but both gigantic casts are going to blow the roof off in the ensemble numbers. Don’t miss the boat!

Book the “Face Academy” performances and the “Face Productions” performances online, playing 11 – 13 October 2019.

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PANAMAX (2019) | Apple Podcasts

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It’s safe to say that The Prickle are massive fans of Unleash The Llama. So as you can imagine, we all got rather excited to hear they’ve brought out a brand new podcast. Only one episode up so far but it’s absolutely hilarious. Subscribe.

The deranged, epic story follows two naïve millennials: arrogant conspiracy theorist Oscar Ayers and naïve IT-technician Lowell Blair. Travelling around Panama, the pair are mistaken for drug-lords, and drawn into the brutal world of the Panamanian cartels. Recording their experience on their smartphones, the pair are plunged into a maelstrom of mistaken-identities, backstabbing and conspiracy that takes them all the way to a showdown at the Turner Prize awards ceremony.

PanaMax finds hope in the direst of situations, even if those situations are a direct consequence of one’s own ignorance. This series takes the British tradition of odd-ball character comedies that deal with social outsiders and dubious familial patronage – like Withnail and I – and combines it with the ‘caught on tape’ candour of An Idiot Abroad and the narrative drive of Narcos and Breaking Bad to deliver a sitcom that is as thematically and formally relevant as it is entertaining.

This is Unleash The Llama’s first foray into the world of audio, but it’s perfect for their outlandish, over-the-top sensibilities. The first episode isn’t even half an hour — it’s too well-edited — but it’s absolutely crammed with insanity. Subscribe.

Subscribe to PanaMax on Apple Podcasts.

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SWIM COLLECTIVE: INSTANT HAPPINESS IMPROV JAZZ NIGHT | Hong Kong, Eaton HK, Terrible Baby

Recommended

How do you like your improv jazz? Completely mental? Then SWIM Collective is for you. It’s unusual for contemporary free jazz to feature a vocalist; three vocalists even moreso. But this is the ensemble’s strength and USP: a highly theatrical, human sound. An accompanying band of harp, keyboard, cello, percussion and electronics allows for a diverse range of expression.

Some of the vocal improvisation is straight out of the Toronto Blessings of the 1990s, a flurry of impassioned tongues, over dissonant spreads of expressionist harp and piano cluster-chords. Sometimes the singers merely coo gently; sometimes they are silent.

One of the most fascinating things about these through-composed, non-repeating, freely improvised pieces, is how the style slowly (sometimes imperceptibly) weaves in and out of free-rhythm effects and anchored, rhythmic, tonal grooves. The whole ensemble are really listening to each other and giving each other space, never trying to dominate the sound. Sometimes this leads to moments of complete silence.

Audience participation is highly encouraged. Everyone is given some tissue paper, and a lucky few are given some spoons. Being conducted in and out, at different volume levels, the sound of paper rustling and spoons clinking en masse is quite mesmerising, and the chance to be involved feels pretty special.

Follow SWIM Collective on Facebook.

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TJOE & NTBM | Hong Kong, Peel Fresco

Recommended

It’s hard to put into words how impressive and special this weekly jazz night is at this tiny live music venue near the party district around Central. Tjoe Man Cheung is a young jazz guitarist of exceptional skill, who, despite his unassuming demeanour, is clearly an excellent bandleader too. Moreover, he seems to know every dynamite musician in Hong Kong, so his “jam session” ends up being of a ridiculously high standard.

NTBM stands for “Not To Be Missed”, and this is apt. The actual “house band” line-up might be slightly different each Sunday evening, but whoever you get, you can be sure of a few pre-rehearsed tunes of outstanding quality, hovering around contemporary jazz-funk, to suit Tjoe’s guitar.

But the star attraction is the jam. Musician after musician, every audience member who joins the action is unique and phenomenal. There doesn’t appear to be any sheet music, even for the niche and complex numbers: just a quick murmur amongst themselves of the title and the key, and away they go, sounding tighter than a lot of pro bands. How is this possible? You may find a Japanese tap-dancer joins in with an improvised solo worthy of its own Broadway show, or an avant-garde vocalist improvises disquietingly around a classic, or a drummer changes tack and rocks out on a melodica (à la Jacob Collier).

Audience participation is very much encouraged. A couple of singers get up who are not first-rate, but relish the opportunity to perform. Little percussion instruments get passed around. It’s a steal at $100 HKD entry; although this entry fee is waived for latecomers who miss the main show. The bar is outrageously expensive (think $75 HKD for a Diet Coke) but still NTBM.

Check out all the live music at Peel Fresco online.

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