Taiwan comes to the Coronet

Taiwan Festival 2024, Coronet Theatre, London
April 12, 2024

This, the first major festival of Taiwanese culture in London, has been three years in the making. Running to April 27 at the Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill Gate, it is presenting more than thirty dancers, musicians, theatre-makers and contemporary visual artists, most making their UK debuts.

The opening night featured the UK debut of Taipei-based Anarchy Dance Theatre (安娜琪舞蹈劇場), performing Second Body, directed and choreographed by Hsieh Chieh-hua (謝杰樺), which had its world premiere back in 2015.

Anarchy Dance Theatre’s Second Body by Hsieh Chieh-hua
Photo Cheng Ching-ju

With lighting design by We Do Group (瓦豆製作), Second Body is a 50-minute solo dance, performed almost completely naked, with 360-degree full-body light projection that creates an artificial body superimposed on the live dancer’s body. The creative idea is that the dancer’s body has to learn to adapt to the alternative reality body.

Chao Ting-ting (趙亭婷) danced with extraordinary accomplishment and balance, beautifully graceful and fluid in her movement. Combined with the light effects, the dance is stunning to watch, and a little mesmerising. However, the choreography is largely a sequence of repeated movements. But with no narrative, it does become a little monotonous.

Part of Feng Cheng-tsung’s installation
Photo Hugo Glendinning

Yannick Dauby’s accompanying music is a combination of a surround-sound of feet running, followed by an electronic composition. I readily own that I have no love for such scores. I can’t help feeling that some melody flowing through and around the electronic would have enhanced the overall effect.

There is also a fascinating exhibition running throughout the festival by Feng Cheng-tsung (范承宗), an installation artist, which is well worth making time to see. Picking up on the Taiwanese tradition of handmade bamboo fish traps, Feng has taken over the Edwardian façade of the theatre and its interior spaces with specially commissioned artwork.

The Taiwan Festival runs to April 27. While a more light and spacious modern venue might have been more appropriate to house this Taiwanese culture fest (as much as I love the Coronet’s quirkiness), it should be well worth masking the effort to catch at least one of them.

To come:

Experimental theatre company Riverbed Theatre (河床劇團) present their immersive 360-degree VR experience All That Remains (遺留). Free to all Taiwan Festival ticket holders and accessible after every performance. To April 27.

Multidisciplinary Taiwanese music artist Yujun Wang (王榆鈞) launches her new album, 明 Dawn to Dawn. Apr 16-17.

Hung Dance 翃舞製作 in Lai Hung-chung’s (賴翃中) Birdy (羽人) a contemporary dance reflection on classical Chinese culture. April 19-20.

Birdy by Hung Dance
Photo Hung Dance

Independent choreographer Chou Kuan-Jou (周寬柔) presents Tomato, a playful exploration of gender issues that really does include a lot of ripe tomatoes. April 23-24.

Riverbed Theatre in Taking It Down And Putting It Up (拆裝), a collage of physical theatre, dance, opera, video projection, music (Yujun Wang) and live visual art (Carl Johnson) based on a manual by Marcel Duchamp on the experience of taking down and putting up Étant donnés, an installation he had secretly spent twenty years assembling in his New York studio apartment. April 25-27.