Performer: Lam Po; Photo: Dicky Wong
Produced by R&T (Rhythm & Tempo), Undestined Sail is promoted as “a mystical tap journey with video and magic”. Performed in Cantonese, it has a simple story – A thunderstorm has occurred and four convicts being transported to prison by a boat that has capsized have been stranded on a deserted island. They find one another on the island, overcome their conflicts and collaborate in their fight for survival. They uncover a map, and find a wooden chest. A magician, cast as the Reaper, delivers a brief narration during the performance, talking to himself, and might have orchestrated the events on the island.
The five performers include: Henry Harrius, who is the magician and one of the convicts and, in the role of the Warden, Chan Wing Yip, who specializes in hip hop. The remaining three convicts are performed by the contemporary dancer Lam Po, the guitar player and music arranger for the production Kung Lai, and the choreographer Ken Kwok.
During the prologue and at the end, a video projection depicts meandering sea waves in the foreground and an island in the near distance. Credit goes to the Video Director Paul Lau for the visual impact of presenting five dancers, physically on stage, but seemingly immersed and trapped in greyish blue water and also threading through the twisting and turning waves at the same time.
Because the flyer has outlined a plot synopsis, I expect a dramatic narrative to come through in the production. However, the various scenes are loosely connected. Harrius occasionally moves with the dancers in the ensemble. When he breaks away from showing his prowess in magic, he has two brief and vague monologues that suggest to me the prisoners’ encounters on the island might have been maneuvered by him. Shrouded in sleek black suit but hardly sinister, the motive of this mysterious Prospero-like character escapes me.
Choreographer and Performer: Ken Kwok; Photo: Dicky Wong
After the prologue, in Scene One, entitled “Survival”, Kwok, arms in chains, performs a solo tap dance with bare feet. I could not be sure whether the strong and loud tapping was being played by an offstage instrument to synchronize perfectly with his feet hitting the ground or if the sound was solely created by his extra vigorous stepping. This was the only scene where I felt a prisoner was frantic, helpless, and alone. If one is washed ashore on a deserted island, wouldn’t one feel desolate, frightened, desperate? The story of castaways could potentially drive feelings of wonder in its plot development, or sympathy for the convicts’ fate. Yet the performers looked mostly like they were having a fun expedition for the rest of the time.
Lam subsequently has a solo, and also performs duets with Kwok or Chan. In various scenes, the three deliver, individually or together, a combination of modern dance and tap dance, with one scene accompanied not by recorded music but by the strumming of a guitar. Although Kung plays the guitar well, it isn’t clear to me why the story requires him to carry a guitar, just as I could not understand why Harrius is alone in Scene Four casting magic. Hence, Undestined Sail comes across partly as a showcase of each individual’s forte, but not integrating fully each of these with the others, and not tying the scenes into a coherent plot. Still, the energetic and rhythmic sway and swirl with dancing dazzle and dynamic guitar tunes create one of the show’s highlights.
Undestined Sail is a good effort in mingling different styles on stage and combining audio and visual experiences. It does not make the mistake of drawing out too long each artist’s performance of his specialty. With a happy ending of the convicts spared by the Grim Reaper and setting sail for unknown destiny, I left the theatre feeling satisfied by the entertaining show.
=== Selina Tng is an occasional contributor to dance journal/hk. Undestined Sail Choreographer and Performer: Ken Kwok Performance: 14 January 2018 15:00 Theatre, Sai Wan Ho Civic Centre