From augmented reality to immersive dining, from ballet to waacking, from comedy to clowning, CAN Festival, the festival exploring contemporary British Chinese experiences is returning for a bigger, bolder year of performance art. Delving into the past, present and future of the British Chinese population, the festival showcases a diverse wealth of talent celebrating innovation and exploring identity.
In theatre, Augmented Chinatown 2.0 is an immersive augmented reality world on your phone that takes you on a tour around Chinatown. The dramatic stories of the area’s many and varied former inhabitants can be accessed at any time of day. Meanwhile, following last year’s Citizens of Nowhere, Overheard takes place in a Chinese restaurant (15 Feb). As the audience eat, through their headphones they hear the conversation between two waitresses and their manager, each from strikingly different Chinese backgrounds – Hong Kong, Singapore, and China – as they negotiate the cracks in contemporary Chinese identity.
The festival’s music offering includes Triptych (Shoreditch Town Hall 12 – 13 Feb) a three-part performance bringing together music, dance and word. Clashing classical music with Chinese percussion, grime and electronica, and ballet with popping, waacking and ambient footwork, Triptych explores otherness and hidden identities, celebrating the power behind the female body and voice. Meanwhile Coalesce (Kings Place 19 Feb) captures the spirit of both classical Chinese instruments and contemporary electronic music. Destinations is Belle Chen’s new audio-visual show, created in collaboration with designer Nick Robertson (Coldplay, Brian Eno), real-time visual performer, Mario Radev (nominee Grand Jury Prize – Sundance Film Festival), and lighting designer, Marty Langthorne (Sadler’s Wells, Dickie Beau).
For some light relief, Comedian Nigel Ng will be performing his Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 Best Newcomer Award nominated debut show Culture Shocked (Soho Theatre 3 – 8 Feb), taking audiences on a joyous romp through his life in the UK as a Malaysian immigrant.
In dance and circus, Invisible Harmony (Southbank Centre 4 Feb) reflects on the East Asian experience of living in the west, and Long Shot (Jackson’s Lane 14 Feb) is a part non-verbal circus performance, part behind the scenes ‘making of’, a catapultastic evening of clowning, contraptions, comedy and courage. Closing the festival, Ways of Being Together (Shoreditch Town Hall 22 Feb) sees Jo Fong drawing together over thirty performers from across London for a one-off spontaneous, dynamic mass movement of bodies and lives.
The festival also includes children’s theatre shows Boh Boh’s New Friends and X+Y= (The Tree of Objects), song and paper cutting installation Walls, and a night of queer performance Queering Now.
CAN Artistic Director, An-Ting Chang said, “I’m delighted to announce the return of CAN Festival for 2020. Following the success of our inaugural festival in 2019, our 2020 festival will be a bigger, bolder and braver celebration of the work being produced by Chinese heritage artists in the UK today.
“How do we, Chinese artists in the UK, look at our Chinese heritage? Where did these artists and the community start from and what are they doing nowadays? Who counts as Chinese? What is ‘Chineseness’? How are we coping with the rapidly changing situation in China and the diaspora?
“Chinese Arts Now is going from strength to strength and we can’t wait to share the diverse and innovative programme we’ve created. We hope that it will give you a new perspective on what ‘Chinese’ means in relation to the arts.”
CAN Festival runs 3 – 23 February 2020. Full festival line up and tickets can be found here.