Kakilang - Understanding Southeast and East Asian Cultures
Image Credit: Lidia Crisafulli & Ian Gallagher

Drawing on a wide range of heritages, Kakilang (formerly Chinese Arts Now - CAN) has announced a full programme and dates for its multi-artform festival that celebrates the work of artists from across the diverse regions of East and Southeast Asia.

Kakilang means our people. Our place. Our aching for home

Eight artistic events featuring theatre, dance, visual arts, live music, cabaret and puppetry will be performed from February - April 2023 in several of London’s leading arts venues including the Barbican, Omnibus Theatre, Rich Mix, Shoreditch Town Hall, Two Temple Place and The Yard.

Establishing what constitutes Kakilang can be problematic, so it’s perhaps best left to an expert to explain. Associate Artistic Director Daniel York Loh says, “Kakilang means our people. Our place. Our aching for home. These yearnings resound through our entire Festival programme this year – the first since our rebranding and restructuring.”

Opening the festival in spectacular fashion at the Barbican is Kakilang’s Home X, an innovative and challenging new show in which live performance meets the virtual world. Created to push the boundaries of theatre, Home X fuses cutting-edge technology with theatre, music, gaming and VR technology. The piece explores themes of roots and belonging, destruction and renewal, with moving real-life testimonies about home and migration. Created with artists performing in real-time in London and Hong Kong and viewed on an impressive 270-degree projection, the live audience will see a visually stunning virtual land inhabited by magical creatures, that is both mythological and futuristic.

From the same region ten internationally acclaimed artists working in different media are brought together in State-Less, a major co-production with Two Temple Place featuring an eclectic visual arts exhibition that includes film, digital material and photography to explore the tangible borders and invisible boundaries that define their identities. For those into cabaret, Taste promises a radical bonanza of drag and dance, that celebrates queer Southeast and East Asian artistry, hosted by Princess Xixi.

In stark contrast, Every Dollar is a Soldier/With Money You're a Dragon by Daniel York Loh, is a part gig-theatre, part spoken-word rap and part concert lament on the immigrant experience, particularly the harsh times of the impoverished first Chinese settlers in London. Originally commissioned as a live performance, but moved online due to the pandemic, the show now returns to the evocative setting it was initially intended for, as a hybrid live and digital performance at Two Temple Place. It features a mix of electronic music composed by An-Ting 安婷 and world-leading Chinese classical instrumentation artists Cheng Yu on the pipa and Wang Xiao on the erhu.

Further illustrating the breadth of this programme is Light Vessel, the continuation of an avant-garde durational art performance by contemporary circus artists Hazel Lam and Lucia Palladino that explores the ‘power in gentleness’. Then, acclaimed theatremaker and performer Tobi Poster Su will present The Lonesome Death of Eng Bunker, a new gothic horror tale of the final hours of Eng (of Chang and Eng fame) utilising puppetry, music and striptease. Meanwhile, legend of the contemporary dance scene Jo Fong, with clown and circus director George Orange, present their hit physical theatre show The Rest of Our Lives, a cabaret of life and near death featuring dance, circus and games. Closing the festival acclaimed singer/songwriter Emmy The Great returns with her first major gig in two years, She will be performing an exciting EP of new material commissioned by Kakilang exploring her Hong Kong past and her British present as well as a set of old favourites.

Kakilang’s Artistic Director An-Ting Chang explains the origins of this event and how it might impact on people. “I started Kakilang Festival with the intention of offering unique perspectives from a variety of artists to help bridge the gap in the understanding of Southeast and East Asian cultures here……we gather “our kakilang” from many different places and with different disciplines and art forms and invite audiences to question the reality of state boundaries, racial stereotypes and other failures of the imagination that still exist in peoples’ minds.

Full details of the Kakilang Festival can be found on the company’s website https://www.kakilang.org.uk

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