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Five Reasons to See ... Re-Orientations

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A heady mix of East meets West, Re-Orientations is a spectacular international collaboration, created by artists from the UK, China, India, Sweden and France. Compelling human stories from around the globe collide in a single moment against an explosion of traditional and contemporary theatre, movement and multimedia. Director Michael Walling shares five reasons to catch Re-Orientations at Soho Theatre from 7 September before it sets off to China and Sweden.

1. An incredible cast

Re-Orientations is more than an international collaboration. It’s a collaboration between some of the most extraordinary performers from each of the countries involved: From the UK, there’s Tony Guilfoyle, who has spent much of the past decade globe-trotting with Robert Lepage, creating those extraordinary multi-media shows. In Re-Orientations, Tony plays a father whose daughter Alex has killed herself. The great Chinese actress Song Ru Hui (best known to UK audiences for her performance in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution) plays Alex’s lesbian lover Song – a very brave role for any Chinese performer to undertake. And Radhakrishna Urala (famed for playing female roles in the traditional all-male Yakshagana of his native India) is an Indian fisherman in a further storyline. The cast of ten also includes dynamic young actors from Sweden’s Teater Eksem, and rising stars of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre.

2. A bold step for China

Chinese performers have worked with UK companies before – but never quite in the way Border Crossings and Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre have undertaken here. Over a two-year period, the companies have co-operated in both Shanghai and London to devise the play. They’ve explored the big questions facing the modern world: globalisation, population growth, wealth gaps, natural disasters, gender and sexuality. They’ve researched the emerging gay scene in China, played with the confusion of languages, learnt from one another’s traditions. The results have fed into the play in very remarkable ways.

3. A visual feast

For all its importance as a pioneering intercultural step, Re-Orientations is anything but ‘worthy’. In fact, much of it is riotous comedy, built up round misunderstanding, sexual confusion and sheer drunken chaos. It’s visually stunning with video beautifully integrated into the action. Sometimes it’s a live relay, sometimes it’s pre-recorded or digital – and always it adds yet another layer to the show. The movement work is by one of France’s leading dance companies - <<à fleur de peau>> - the first chance London has had to see their astonishing choreography.

4. Connections and mysteries

Re-Orientations is about the connections between stories which are apparently far removed from one another. Alex kills herself in Shanghai. Two Swedish actors are going through a relationship crisis as they perform Miss Julie on tour. An Indian fisherman wants to be seen on TV. A young transvestite is assaulted in a club toilet. What can these events have to do with one another? Re-Orientations unravels its secrets like a good detective story, or a Chinese puzzle.

5. Because it’s here…

There are just three weeks to catch Re-Orientations during its London run at Soho Theatre, before it moves on to Shanghai in October and Sweden in November. There’s never been a show quite like this before – catch it while you can!

Michael Walling directs Re-Orientations which runs at the Soho Theatre from 7-25 September 2010.


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