(Da Thao Phuong/Internet image)
A spoken word show about freedom of expression called Speechless – brilliant! As was the show, which featured nine writers, some from the UK and Ireland, and several from the Far East, who performed works specially-written for this touring production the result of a collaboration between Apples & Snakes and the British Council.
I’ve been attending Apples & Snakes events, on and off, for a long time, and this has to have been one of the best shows I’ve seen. It was quite extraordinary to see young writers from Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Phillippines and Vietnam on stage together, alongside UK artists. And it made me realise how little of this I actually see in the UK, even though we’re renowned for our international literature scene. But young, Far Eastern writers? No, it’s a rarity. Some of the writing was very striking and original and all the performances were very professional. I was also relieved that not a single cliche was uttered during the performance.
Visually the show was stunning too. Liu Liang Yen’s body language, costume and head gear was amazing and pretty indescribable. (White powdered face and chest, and the strangest hat thingy on his head.) Unfortunately I can’t find any photos of it on the internet to show you. Da Thao Phuong performance was also visually beautiful. Overall the show’s production values were really high.
But I don’t really want to single out any one writer/performer because the standard was so high. I’ve toured a lot internationally as a writer, often for the British Council, and I’m so aware that it’s always one-way traffic. We visit countries to do our thing and there’s rarely the opportunity (or money) for this to be reciprocated. But we are one of the richest countries in the world (still!), somewhere in the top 12 (out of 240?) last time I looked, and money can be found. Lest anyone think bringing these poets to the UK is a philanthropic gesture, I have to say that I imagine their imaginative words and performances in SPEECHLESS were an inspiration to (young?) British spoken word artists. I hope that this is the first of many such initiatives.
Well done to all involved.