Sunday, November 16, 2008

Born from an egg on a mountain top

I saw Albarn and Hewlett's new opera Monkey: Journey To The West at the O2 on Tuesday. Or, more accurately, in a tent outside the O2. Hip-hop maestro Kanye West was performing in the main auditorium, which explained the Jubilee line crowd that frankly didn't look like opera fans, not even for one by the creators of Blur and Tank Girl. The opera is based on the same ancient chinese story as the kitsch 80s favourite Monkey Magic.

I'm afraid I didn't like it. The visuals were occasionally arresting, and I really enjoyed the Hewlett animations they used as transitions early on, but these seemed to peter out towards the end as if they'd run out of money or interest. The music was quite good, and reminiscent of Gorillaz, though whether this was just the power of suggestion or not is difficult to say. The whole thing was billed as a 'circus opera' and it was the circus bit I didn't really enjoy. I've seen some pretty cool dance and acrobatics in my time, and this just didn't do it for me. That said, I thought Cirque De Soleil had too much dull faffing in between the Good Bits and am one of the few people on earth who didn't like the stage version of the Lion King. So maybe I'm just a stone-hearted grumpy old hater.

The english translations that appeared occasionally were very odd in content, odd in phrasing and contained a number of (presumably) deliberate anachronisms such as 'hamburger' and 'guided missile'. I'm not sure whether the oddness was due to the nature of the source material, a deliberate obtuseness on the part of the creators or both. Unfortunately it meant the first half was particularly incomprehensible as it dealt with Monkey's past before we meet the familiar characters of Tripitaka, Pigsy and Sandy.

In cruel brevity: it was like a high school had unexpectedly got a big budget for their Rock Eisteddfod version of Monkey Magic.

Much better you remember the holy trinity ABC afternoon trilogy of Monkey, The Goodies and Dr Who. Please find attached - it amuses me to use that archaic form in a blog post - the legendary episode where Monkey calls a demon a poofter, Tripod Goodifying the Monkey theme tune, and Dr Who abusing K9. Happy days.

1 comment:

Jason B. Standing said...

1) If you're interested in the collected works of kitschness, I spotted here fairly reasonably:

2) I didn't like The Lion King either - possibly for some similar reasons, and probably for some other additional types of incorrectly propped-up outrage.

3) Cirque du Soleil had NOTHING on Fuerzabruta.

4) I understand that a key cockup in the Monkey opera was having the surtitles appearing to one side, so you couldn't watch both at once. Seems a bit of a silly mistake!

5) Sissy! POOOOOOOOOOOOOF-TAAAAAA! What a classic :)