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Every dollar is a soldier/with money you’re a dragon – Chinese Arts Now/ Two Temple Place

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

Writer: Daniel York Loh

Director: An-Ting Chang

At a time, the most prominent migrators across the globe harkened from China. Escaping famine, instability and poverty, thousands of families took to the winds and ended up spanning the globe. A piece of our history that many have tragically forgotten. With them came culture, art, cuisine, and the foundations for the way the world is today. Two Temple Place and Chinese Arts Now come together to share stories of immigration and challenge the perceptions, and diversify the UK’s art scene with Chinese tales and experiences.

Writer and performer Daniel York Loh comes to grips with William Waldorf Astor’s story, creator of the Two Temple Place. The opulence of the Two Temple Place art gallery merges with the artistry and culture of generations, inviting the audience to visit the virtual promenade performance around some of history’s key immigrant success stories – from the poorest of Chinese sailors who jumped ship in the East End, to the richest of men like Astor who fled persecution in America to England.

The prospect of perusing the galleries and exhibitions of the world once the doors close is a distinct dream. Free to explore and unravel the tantalising secrets of history at our leisure, all cast by the cold night air outside, transforming the physical into something otherworldly. As the technology of visual gaming and 3D graphical design intermingle, this highly experimental production bubbles together original compositions, virtual performance and spoken work exploring the migrant experience into a spectacular piece of artistry that garbs itself in a few too many pixels.

Jarring, the initial venture into the exhibition will take time for the audiences to adjust to the graphics and auditory. There will be glitches, frame drops and graphical abnormalities – but hang in there. Once the audience gathers in the lobby and can follow the blazing orb above them, there’s a tremendously powerful and evocative experience awaiting to decipher a culture richly interwoven with the UK’s, but not capitalised on. Director An-Ting Chang understands the necessity of pushing concepts, nowhere quite so well placed as the coming together of the Waltz, perhaps the most European of movements, but composed to the melody of the erhu, a Chinese instrument that at first perplexes as the slow, familiar rhythmic movements strike an accord.

Outside of the production’s composition, its significantly visual nature opens the eyes of audiences to the murals, sculptures, and paintings of a world outside of the traditional European heritage. Allowing freedom of movement for audiences within this bubble enables them to explore without restraint, but herein lies an issue. Any who join late due to technical issues or those confused may wander around the gallery without realising the structure. The rising sun, an overhanging orb that provides a sense of loose narrative, tells tales as performers Chloe Wing, Si Rawlinson, and Daniel York Loh drown against Christine Ting- Huan 挺欢 Urquhart’s rather noisy, if unique and colourful design. Take a moment to pry yourself from the gallery element, and the lyricism and choreography are tremendous, and if anything, sorely lacking, drowned by the reliance on game design and virtual integration.

Right now, assaults and open hostility towards Asian communities is not only on the rise but in an unchallenged and dangerous setting. People have become ‘others’ in their day-to-day lives despite their place within other nations for decades, generations and centuries. Every dollar is a soldier/with money you’re a dragon is an ambitious feat that digitises the promenade structure, packaging it in a somewhat interactive experience of heritage, choreography and original music.

Available here until 30 April 2021

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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