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Damp squib in Newsham Park

Vinny Lawrenson Woods is seriously unimpressed by The Emperor and the Tiger

Published on August 4th 2008.

Damp squib in Newsham Park

I’VE noticed a trend in this Capital of Culture year. Apparently, to bring culture to the people, you need fireworks, but even these couldn’t save the open air performance of The Emperor and the Tiger in Newsham Park.

Although this family event was advertised as 8.30pm in the 08 events guide, the show didn’t start until after 9.30pm. When it did start and the narrator spoke, the sound was quiet and muffled and no one could hear what was being said

Inspired by a traditional Bengali folktale, The Emperor and the Tiger tells the tale of a greedy emperor demanding too many taxes, and a wise man who persuades him to change his ways with the help of a giant Bengal tiger. The show was produced by Manchester's Walk the Plank and carnival arts organisation Kinetika featuring a cast and crew of more than 150, including 50 local community dancers.

And commissioned by the Liverpool Culture Company, The Emperor and the Tiger kick-started Liverpool’s carnival weekend and the Imagine festival (1st – 10th August).

The problems started early. Although this family event was advertised as 8.30pm in the 08 events guide, the show didn’t start until after 9.30pm. When the performance did start and the narrator spoke, the sound was quiet and muffled and no one could hear what was being said. As soon as the first dancers came onto the 100-metre long stage, a second problem became very apparent: unless you were at the front, you couldn’t see the stage.

What we could see of the dancers looked good; although what street kids and flamenco dancers had to with this Bengali tale I wasn’t sure. The poor sound quality didn’t help and, without the aid of the narrator, the audience started to lose interest and some actually left, summed up aptly by a couple of my fellow spectators at this point: “It’s proper shit”, and “Let’s fuck off back to yours and watch the fireworks”.

The sound quality did improve, although not perfectly at first, to the amusement of my friends who were shouting out words as they could hear them, as the narrator told the story Norman Collier-style.

When the emperor appeared in his lofty tower, the sound problems were at last resolved. From here on, the performance was at times enjoyable and visually superb with fiery lanterns, backlit trees, very colourful costumes and, of course, the giant mechanical tiger who helped deliver the people from their oppressive ruler. The dancers, playing the Bengali people, were enchanting and provided one of few moments when the performance worked well.

The evening finished with a great firework display but The Emperor and the Tiger was a show with an identity crisis. When it did find itself, it was quickly scuppered by odd choices like the use of the cheesy Eye of Tiger soundtrack in what should have been a charming period story.

I’m a real fan of free outdoor performances and it was great to see the large number of people turn up to watch this. Events like this are a great opportunity to engage people in the Capital of Culture year, but just getting them there isn’t enough and, not for the first time this year, people have left a little disappointed.

Technical problems aside, this could have and should have been better.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

culturesqueAugust 4th 2008.

hey A Fan, know the Vin personally ;-)and he's def not the same person as Chris H

A fanAugust 4th 2008.

I see that Chris High in The Stage today has copied Vinnie almost word for word. Or perhaps they are the same person.

Vinny Lawrenson-WoodsAugust 4th 2008.

Hi A Fan. Thanks for pointing out the Stage's review. They do appear to be quite similar but I can assure you Chris High and I are different people. I run culturepool (http://www.culturepool.org.uk) and Chris High has his own website (http://www.chrishigh.com) and you can see from our photos on our websites that we are indeed different people.

Professor Chucklebutty IIIAugust 4th 2008.

Now. as I was saying..Ahh the lines of Blake, spring to mind. Tiger, Tiger.And did those tiger feet in ancient times walk upon Newsham bowling green. And was the holy Lambanana, hang on, somebody's set me chariot on fire!What immortal hand or eye would flame a Citroen 2CV?

Professor ChucklebuttyAugust 4th 2008.

I have a similar problem that people think I am Johnny Depp, although that mistake is based upon his role as Herbert Scissorhands.

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