INTERVIEW | Septime Webre

Interview

Septime Webre is the artistic director of Hong Kong Ballet. He was kind enough to talk to us about Hong Kong Ballet’s new, upcoming production of The Nutcracker.

What made you decide it’s time for a new production of The Nutcracker?

The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition – the Christmas season just wouldn’t be the same without it! Our current production is almost ten years old, and it seemed like the right time for a make-over. The new production is set in early twentieth century Hong Kong, and is a celebration of Hong Kong’s culture, history and natural beauty – I think it will resonate with Hong Kong people.

What about all those audiences who still love the old production of The Nutcracker?

The essence of the previous production is to be found in the majestic Tchaikovsky score, and that remains intact. In fact, the music is the heart of The Nutcracker, and this new production provides the roadmap: it’s very much a return to the original ballet’s concepts, a charming story of a young girl’s marvellous journey to magical new lands.

What have been your major aims for Hong Kong Ballet, since taking on the role of artistic director in 2017?

We have long been one of Asia’s premier ballet companies—our goal is also to be its most forward-looking, with a focus on being cherished locally and respected globally.  We’ve endeavoured to reflect Hong Kong more thoroughly, while simultaneously raising the classical standards of the company. And we’re achieving our goals!

What’s next for Hong Kong Ballet?

So much exciting new work!  A major residency at M+, Hong Kong’s new signature contemporary art museum; the return of Yuri Ng’s lively Ballet Classics for Children: Swan Lake; a mixed bill which celebrates the rule-breakers of ballet; a new full-length ballet about the life of Coco Chanel, and more!

Playing 11 – 26 December 2021 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre.

The Prickle - About transp

STITCHES IN TIME | Hong Kong, Central MTR Station

Recommended

This exhibition is a showcase of hand-embroidered works of Ms Nikki Delport-Wepener and her students from the Les Designs Studio: a celebration of what can be achieved with the needle. The students are from many different countries, and it is this cosmopolitan mix that allows the uniqueness of the individual to shine through.

The common denominator is the love of hand stitching. The designs and techniques viewed throughout the exhibition are a culmination of many years of tuition and expertise from Nikki.

Nikki aims to increase the public’s awareness of the arts, and in particular, of mixed media hand embroidery. Nikki and her students share their joy in creative stitching by showcasing images of the lifestyle in Hong Kong, as well as the flora and fauna around the world.

These displays are a mixed range of Nikki’s stitches and techniques she teaches the students. The themes on display are based on flora around the world This particular display shows different interpretations of flowering plants, flowers in bloom, Fynbos, flower and creature samplers, decorated cheongsams and aprons that are created as two-dimensional and three-dimensional images; a variety of stitches and techniques have been used in each design, every embroidered piece has been carefully crafted over several months.

Check out the whole exhibition for free at Central MTR Exit J, 13 July – 10 September 2021.

The Prickle - About transp

DISNEY IN CONCERT: MAGICAL MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES | Hong Kong, KITEC Star Hall

Recommended

This summer, the renowned Hong Kong Symphonic Winds Symphony Orchestra are inviting us to experience some of the most beloved Disney scores of all time, with Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies. Joined by four powerhouse vocalists, and conducted by Fung Ka Hing, the orchestra play alongside perfectly synchronized projected video clips from iconic Disney films, so the whole family can enjoy.

Audiences will be treated to Disney’s most iconic scores and songs, including for the Oscar-winning animated features The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). Live action features like Mary Poppins (1964) and the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean film series are also set to be particular crowdpleasers.

This is without doubt the perfect pick for a youngster’s first concert. Founded in 1987, The Hong Kong Symphonic Winds (HKSW) is the first amateur band in Hong Kong with considerable size and structure, devoted to promoting music education in the community. The standard is extremely high, with a number of top professional players among the ranks.

These family-friendly concerts are always extremely popular, so book early to avoid disappointment. There is no better way to fall in love with the magic of a live orchestra than through the magic of Disney.

Presentation licensed by Disney Concerts © All rights reserved

Book online now for 31 July and 1 August 2021.

The Prickle - About transp

YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN | Hong Kong, HKAPA, Drama Theatre

Recommended

Based on Charles M. Schulz iconic comic strip about Snoopy and the “Peanuts” gang, this 1967 musical revue created by Clark Gesner and the original company has won a slew of awards over the years, including a successful run on Broadway. This is just a graduate showcase for the School of Drama Bachelor of Fine Arts students, but boy, you’d never know it: it plays like a professional version.

Despite the quintessentially American trappings with Thanksgiving and little league baseball, it is amazing how this musical takes on new meaning in Hong Kong. With a new Cantonese translation (Wong Cho-lam, Li Wing-hong), there are lots of fun updates like a reference to “Baby Shark” instead of “Frère Jacques”. Even accidentally, in Cantonese, Snoopy’s imaginary fight against “The Red Baron” takes on connotations of the fight against a “red” communist regime. But really, the central themes of school-bred anxiety in children, and “Give me a child till he’s seven, and I will show you the man”, are universal.

Though ostensibly a cast of “actors who sing”, as opposed to musical theatre students, the quality of the vocal ensemble, not to mention electrifying choreography (Tony Wong), is already professional standard.

The cartoon, cardboard-cutout set (Siu Jiou) is a huge part of the action, with a row of portholes serving as everything from traffic lights to Charlie Brown’s (Kwong Oon-hin) anxiety, shown through massive eyes shifting left and right. Get a ticket to the next graduate showcase; you might just be seeing the stars of tomorrow.

Follow the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts online.

The Prickle - About transp

THE CONVERT | London, Above The Stag Theatre

Recommended

Ben Kavanagh’s chilling new play explores the resources we need to endure catastrophe through an alternate reality where our greatest fears are endemic and enduring.

***

You said The Convert is the “maddest” thing you’ve ever written. Is it really?

I think so. I mean, it feels very much like a play that exists in an alternate world, both in terms of its actual content, and also its form and structure. There’s only three characters, but there’s constant references to a wider society which gives it this epic feel. It’s also got some pretty dramatic set pieces, but I won’t ruin it with spoilers!

How did the project come about?

The play is part of a larger season at the Above The Stag Theatre — the UK’s only full time LBGTQ+ theatre — called CONTACT, which is essentially a festival of new and challenging work. Each company has been given free rehearsal space and a five-night run to realise their ideas and bring them to the stage. I’m thrilled to be back working with director Gene David Kirk, whose previous work at the Stag has been particularly successful, and with us for the journey are two extremely talented actors in James Phoon and Olly Roy — it’s an exciting prospect going back into the rehearsal room with such a strong team.

Why gay conversion therapy?

In fact, The Convert started life as a monologue in BODY POLITIC. Gene approached me about the season at the Stag in March of 2021, and asked if I had any ideas: I suggested this monologue could have the dramatic potential for expanding into a full-length play. As we chatted, the world of the monologue seemed to blend perfectly with a conversation that was being had in the wider media at the time, the legislating against gay conversion therapy – i.e. the ridiculous time it was taking to ban it!

What can audiences expect on the night?

I know the main thrust of the play is set against the backdrop of conversion therapy, but I think, like all good theatre, at its root, it’s a play about love, and in particular, enduring love. So I’d certainly expect that. As for the rest – well, we’ve not started rehearsals yet, and the entire play could be rewritten after the first day of rehearsals, as is so often the case. So much of the writing process relies on hearing the actors speak the lines, and gaining the insight of the director in how the story is coming together – as a writer, sometimes you are too close to the play to have that kind of perspective. Collaboration breeds a kind of openness in the room that nearly always results in a clearer direction for the story. It’s thrilling! They say good plays aren’t written, they are rewritten; well, if that’s the case then sign me up!

Playing 23 – 27 June 2021 at the Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall.

The Prickle - About transp

JEW…ISH 2021 | London, King’s Head Theatre

Theatre - Recommended

***

“It was a total nightmare from beginning to end. The worst thing is, I think I learned guilt from him. Can you learn guilt?”

***

Unleash the Llama are proud to present the long awaited return of the five-star sell-out “hilarious”, Jew…ish, filmed in high definition by the award-winning Shoot Media as part of King’s Head Theatre’s digital on demand season, Plays On Film.

The twisted millennial romcom that absolutely no-one asked for, Jew…ish struck a resounding chord with audiences in smash-hit live runs in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe and was nominated for an Offies OFFCOMM award.

TJ (Edie Newman) and Max (Saul Boyer) are in love; with polyamory, substance-abuse on the Portobello Road and sexually-charged debates about Israel-Palestine. Occasionally even with each other. There’s just one thing: Max is Jewish. TJ isn’t.

Watch as these mortal ‘frenemies’ navigate the cultural divide – amid death, pegging, and two millennia of inherited trauma – in this laugh-out-loud two-hander which asks the ultimate question: is it ever OK to get back with your ex?

***

Available to watch on demand via the King’s Head Theatre new streaming service, KHTV, Thursday 15 April 2021 – Wednesday 5 May 2021.

MATCHES 球賽 | Hong Kong, Cultural Centre (online)

Recommended

Y-Space’s innovative sport dance show, “Matches”, was scheduled to take over the Hong Kong Cultural Centre from April to December 2020, but the live performance was still impossible due to the pandemic. Fortunately for us, this coliseum-like, game-influenced dance piece is now available to stream online as a “Director’s Edition”.

In order to let audiences have a more comprehensive, deeper experience with “Matches”, the Director’s Edition retains the superb performances of the performers, with a clearer concept and a more intense atmosphere. Those who have watched the show already will be able to recall the impact of “Matches”; while newcomers have a brand new chance to experience it.

Y-Space was founded in 1995 by Victor Choi-wo Ma and Mandy Ming-yin Yim in Hong Kong, with the mission of exploring the infinite possibilities of dance, and searching for new dance idioms and new artistic directions. Now in its 18th year, Y-Space has become an important arts group on the Hong Kong contemporary dance through creating new work, promoting dance and providing training, education and research work through activities conducted at community level and at the Y-Space Dance Studio.

As for the show itself: “The game is fair,” they say. Rules are written; the game is changing. Who will win? Who will lose? And, at the end; who decides?

Available for online streaming until 1 March 2021.

The Prickle - About transp

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.

The Prickle - About transp

HK BALLET SEASON 2020/2021 | Hong Kong

Recommended


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.

The Prickle - About transp

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

Recommended

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.

The Prickle - About transp