Review: Kakilang’s HOME X at the Barbican ★★★★½
A mesmeric, unmissable mash-up of live theatre, dance and VR gaming, Kakilang’s HOME X is hybrid performance art with an urgent message about migration and the nature of home.
Main Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
Formerly known as Chinese Arts Now, Kakilang rock up at The Barbican’s Pit Theatre to astound, entertain and inform with this eye-opening show.
Combining expertly choreographed and performed dance with VR technology, HOME X offers two experiences: at home, players’ avatars populate a virtual world where magical, sprite-like creatures observe a clash of giants; in the theatre, audiences see creator, director and composer An-Ting Chang and choreographer and dancer Si Rawlinson do their thing in-stage in front of a 270-degree projection of the live virtual environment.
Both the in-game and in-theatre audiences are treated to a story which explores themes of roots and belonging, destruction and renewal, and relates real-life stories of home and migration.
Whilst Is Rawlinson whirls and jigs on stage in London, his every move projected into the gaming world, Colette Lam and Suen Nam sing and break dance respectively from Hong Kong. Magically, the technology allows Si Rawlinson and Suen Name to interact ‘physically’ – they play, they fight – from opposite sides of the world. It is often easy to overlook the athletic, gymnastic agility required to pull of the effect that one is lifting, or pushing, punching or kicking the other. It really has to be seen to be believed.
After an opening, stage-setting sequence, some fun is had with the possibilities of such a hybrid theatrical playground – and the stage is then set for a deeper exploration on the theme of home: what makes a home, how one sometimes has to leave, and how one can make a new home in a new place.
The virtual world created by Ian Gallagher, Donald Shek and An-Ting Chang occupies a liminal, other space between the physical performance locations – a virtual representation of the transitory space between homes. The effect is compelling, and immersive – undoubtedly so for the at-home participants, but impressively so for the in-theatre audience.
Environmental factors could easily undermine the intended effect – here, the lighting and projection power don’t quite feel optimal – but it is a testament to the all-round design of HOME X that the 75 minute performance holds the attention throughout.
For all the technical wizardry, and the skilful performance of the break-dancers and soprano – not to mention the tech-crew running things, and performing key roles as in-game characters – the most affecting sequence sees and hears from a number of migrants telling their own stories. It is compelling and moving to see these faces on screen and to hear their voices – we can never have enough of this.
HOME X is truly impressive, experimental story-telling to engage the heart and the brain – catch it while you can.
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