samsara review by frank howsonsamsara review by frank howson 

There aren’t many shows you can say you felt honoured to have witnessed. But so it was, watching the performance of Samsara, at the Playhouse, Arts Centre. Part of the AsiaTopa season.

From the moment it began, it was enthralling, evocative, mysterious, breathtaking and seductive. The story of Samsara is inspired by the many monks believed to have attempted the long pilgrimage that eventually led to the classic Chinese story “Journey to The West.” Their pilgrimage is both literal and metaphorical; physical and spiritual. All those lines were thrillingly crisscrossed in this splendid production.

With the universal themes of self-development, strength, fear, and love. Samsara explores the journey individuals take to become themselves. With obstacles to overcome and demons to face, we leave behind many versions of ourselves and learn to love these versions whilst finding love for others.

Samsara traces a path across lands and through time, exploring the idea that if we let attachments go, and instead allow love and light in, we might find a place of truth and peace.

Its staging is clever and surprising.

But most credit must go to the two dancers, and choreographers, Aakash Odedra and Hu Shenyuan, who display a showcase performance of precision and unison that will be almost impossible to match. They were spellbinding in their commitment to perfection and at times resembled two parts of the same body. Heartbeat to heartbeat.

Special mention must also be given to vocalist and composer Nicki Wells whose vocals and composition are the perfect soundtrack to the onstage action of two spirits searching, soaring and reaching out for a destination they may not be granted by a God yet persist they do as they realize that heaven is in the striving. It is indeed a spiritual journey not only for the onstage characters but also for the audience witnessing it. This was confirmed by the instantaneous standing ovation of all present, at the end of the performance. One in our respect and joy for a miraculous performance in which time seemed to stand still, although the artists never did.

Lou Cope was the theatre dramaturg and facilitator. Beibei Wang the virtuoso percussionist who moved our spirits in coordination with the action. Michael Ormistion, the award-winning Mongolian Khoomii (Overtone) singer and multi-instrumentalist, who enthralled us.

The show was designed by Tina Tzoka, Dr. Yaron Abulafia, and KH Lee. Samsara was produced by Anand Bhatt. Technical Director – Salvatore Scollo.

To me, Samsara is Art at its highest level.

This was the world premiere. The European premiere will take place at Birmingham Hippodrome, UK on 11 June 2020, followed by the UK and international tour through to March 2021.

It is a performance I will never forget. Thank you to the talents and efforts of all involved.


Review by Frank Howson March 2020.

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