To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Middleburgh Arts Festival

Am I cultured or wot!!!

Well I'd like to think so but it is in question....As a callow youth in London I used to go to classical concerts and the like at the South Bank (student discounts!!). I was a member of the British Film Institute and went to the annual film festivals and various art house cinemas (other than those in soho - well maybe once or twice). I went to the National Theatre, the Old Vic, Young Vic, the Royal court Theatre and other fringe theatre venues including Half Moon and Theatre Royal. Occasionally I went to jazz and infrequently, normally if someone else paid, to ballet/modern dance and the opera .

This,in addition to all the contemporary music at various pub gigs, and the obligatory folk music clubs in deepest Essex (with Morris dancing - as a spectator imbibing cultural lubricants)

And then I got married and moved to Dublin where I never once went to the Abbey.(shame on me) I migrated via Bristol, where I visted the Hippodrome only once to take the kids to panto, and via Melbourne where I never visited a theatre to Hong Kong where things have picked up (frankly they couldn’t have got worse!!)

Since I have been in HK I have attended performances of Riverdance (cultured or wot ?) Stomp and an even better group of Korean percussionists in Kwai Chung , an excellent performance of the Pirates of Penzance (local cast) - so what if I am partial to Gilbert and Sullivan, and King Learin English (with Chinese subtitles) during which, it has to be said I paid more attention to my partners ear .

This year I was sufficiently organized to get tickets to three performances at the recent 2008 HK Arts festival during dates (last year was a case "oh I would have liked to have seen that ... why didn't we book?) Advanced booking starts mid October and I applied for tickets at 4 events covering the spectrum i.e.

Unfortunately we weren't allocated tickets for Rigoletto in advanced booking and I wasn't quick witted enough to try and get seats when they went on sale through the box office. Next year.......

It was a toss up between the NT and the American Repertory Theatre - I researched but was in the end went with the 'old country". The choice for music was between a Japanese jazz pianist; a Pulitzer Prize winning saxophonist and an afro Caribbean jazz sextet.

Chatroom + Citizenship

The audience of which I will say more was clearly pro-Brit. The UK reviews (Manchester Evening news, The Stage,indie London) were glowing and the show was sponsored by the British Council - what more could one ask for! Well to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I should have paid more attention to the reviews. Chatroom the first of 2 miniplays involved the cast sitting as if at home before (imaginary) PC's logged into chatrooms "chatting" amongst themselves. The plot (dialogues) revolved about a suicidal teenager and the conversation between him, his peers and themselves.

Clearly in the context of the recent and tragic suicides in Wales this has topical social relevance to UK audiences and is clearly dealing with real and current UK issues. It however left me profoundly depressed and unsatisfied. It was joyless and neither uplifting, challenging nor, more importantly, motivating. I didn't leave the theatre fired to do my bit to change the world as a result of watching this play. In fact I was somewhat bemused that the British council had sponsored it. As an insight to British values, way of life and culture it may have been gritty and "real" but I would argue that for an overseas audience it send a message the Britain and British youth in particular are a "sick" bunch of Wally’s (which of course may be true)

The second miniplay citizenship although more 'lively' dealt with equally serious social matters of teenage pregnancy, and confused sexual identity. Set in 'hoody land" somewhere south of the river the cast affected a south London underclass accent and manner worthy of the Catherine Tate show. UK and London audiences in particular might identify with this but I was at a serious disadvantage since I couldn't read the Chinese subtitles and even though I am from London and am told have a strong London accent I only got two words in three. Presumably the argument goes that it doesn't matter if an overseas audience doesn't understand the words because they can read the subtitles. Shame about the rest of us.....which brings me to an interesting point about the audience.

It was the "Yaah" brigade. I was once given a book essentially making fun of the way the moneyed classes speak. (Stereotype/wannabes - not the real thing) A significant proportion of the audience were affluent 30 something yuppie Chinese all of whom were speaking English better than wot the Queen does (certainly better than'Arry wif or wif owt 'is poo). Under the British, many local civil servants apparently got an allowance to send their children to UK public schools 9which in England of course are private schools). Consequently they all speak English with affected upper-class British accents... example "did you haar about charles?"... oh yaah.. Isn’t he something big in the city?? ... yaah"" I haar he's a broker at Mogan Stann-lai" hence the yaah brigade... my socialist hackles kept rising during the interval as I overhead all these conversations but I resisted the temptation to thrust up my arm in a black power salute and shout at the top of my voice " Up the revolution!! Death to capitalist's running dogs!!". I put it down to the fact that it was very surreal to be in china surrounded by Chinese who are speaking English amongst themselves. I wouldn't be surprised however if the play didn't in fact point up, in their minds, if not reinforce a class view of, British stereo types. (But then that might be my own prejudices speaking!!)

I wonder if the American Repertory theatre had an equivalent audience. (a Yippy Yippy Yaar brigade perhaps??)I will find out next year....

Ornett Coleman

No yaah brigade although. there was a large group of well dressed people (with badges) greeting one another, whom I suspect were the South China Jazz Appreciation Society, all come together just for this performance. They may have even bussed people in from Shenzhen.

My partner and I had discussed before we went, what sort of jazz we both liked and had concluded that if there were long technical "bits" it would be intellectually above us. In fact there weren't that many and the man excelled by virtue of his electric blue suit which is worthy of note in its own right. There were even moments when his playing was quite awesome, however the overall impression (to me) was somewhere between a star in his twightlight years providing a show case for his mates, and a pack of young lions vying between themselves to be the alpha male. In other words I seemed to hear more backing group than headliner.

Pity really - I really did like the suit and overall it was more enjoyable than the National Theatre. Still next year, we will play it safe and go for Cuban jazz or equivalent


This was the bees knees. At one point though I closed my eyes and let the music flow over me . I was accused of falling alseep which I adamantly deny (although I have to say that the lunch immediately the performce was excellent)

The dance was sexy , humerous, lively skilled etc (i have insufficient superlatives to adequately describe the perfrmance. After this show I left the theatre all fired up; these guys can come again and bring on more. In fact it was so good I went looking for clips on YouTube (all of which were rubbish !!) here is the preview link from the festival website Even so it totally understates the visual impact and vitality of the live performance. This is why live theatre, dance or music is so.... Yaah!!!!!


For anyone who takes exception to this review (including the British council) I would draw your attention to the outcome of a recent court case.

OK Yaah !!!

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