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Review, 8-5: "Escapade"
Bollywood on the South Bank
By Josephine Leask
Copyright 2003 Josephine Leask
LONDON -- Seen this
past weekend, "Escapade" transformed the Royal Festival Hall on
London's South Bank into a shimmering phantasmagoric Bollywood set.
This huge multi-media event, which included dance, music, DJs, skateboarding,
film and visuals was an ingenious hit brought 'large' to London
by its culturally rich Indian community. 150 dancers performed outside
on balconies, alcoves, grassy banks and underpasses around the Festival
Hall. Sound systems blasted out remixes of Bollywood hits, live
sitar music and the very latest beats from the Asian underground
club scene. When it grew dark a film was projected onto the outside
of the RFH, melting its solid serious contours into a canvas for
With a strong artistic
team headed by artistic director Keith Khan, "Escapade" was totally
in touch with a London "as seen through Indian eyes." It uses a
simple plot -- a couple of lovers meet and are about to kiss, but
are held in a moment of heightened anticipation. This is a 'quotation'
borrowed from Bollywood movies where until recently kisses were
never actually shown on screen and lovers' passion is never consummated.
During the first half
of the event, the lovers' encounter is performed live by 'contemporary'
dancers who search for each other amidst the arty chaos of dance
and activity in the concrete jungle of the RFH. They encounter Indian
tourists in a red London bus, Bollywood superstars, Punkz and skateboarders,
traditional sari-wearing dancers, sloanes (posh Indians) and Asian
b-boys, all doing their thing. Whenever they do manage to meet the
actual act of kissing is constantly deferred.
The second half of "Escapade"
uses film to narrate the lovers' encounter, while a film within
a film portrays a family in front of its TV set watching the lovers
and constantly rewinding and fast forwarding the action. Suspense
builds and the audience sighs -- everybody wants the kiss. When
the lovers' lips finally meet, celebrations abound. Groups of dancers
congregate on podiums and balconies and give it their all in a movement
orgy, while fireworks are launched from the roof, and lights flicker
splendidly off and on in time to the music. There's even an Indian
transvestite camping it up on a podium and working the crowd hard.
offers a wonderful mix of Bollywood-appropriate naivete, postmodern
deconstruction of image and text, and juxtaposition of art forms.
Best of all, it's celebratory, displaying content from many different
cultural trends and embracing them all. While it all seems a bit
daunting at the beginning as one has to look quite hard for the
different dancers who are spread out over a large area, it gradually
comes together, like the lovers, as one coherent whole.
Standing under the walls
of the lofty RFH in a sea of appreciative dancing people, I felt
love for London for giving us this free event. That evening in the
rare heat of a summer evening, London did me and a whole lot of
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