Nigga News Reviews Sutra at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
Slash, stab, spin. A blur of steel & cloth flying through the air. Several hundred people in the audience gasp. The monk lands nimbly on one foot, absorbing the impact. Shit is so effortless. He slices into the next move with the precision of a surgeon…
Desdemona is standing under the sign at the entrance. She has my ticket ready to go. Price says $20, but something tells me we got a discount.
There’s maybe thousands of people here for the show. Stampede of the cultural mosaic that is the 6. Waves of Asian people. A sprinkling of black people. Uncomfortable amount of white people. All here to see these dope ass monks dancing.
Enter the coliseum. Space is huge and expensive. Sony ain’t playing. Usher hands me a program. Two men are dancing, one nimbly perched on the others back. Dude on the bottom is a white. Part of me is incessed that this culturally appropriating vanilla ISIS is ruining my own cultural tourism. The other part of me understands that he is there for funding.
This kid is the protagonist. He’s the youngest of the monks. The white dude is his dad. Young Keannu Reeves vibes. Can he overcome his whiteness & inferiority to become a true Shaolin warrior?
Now that’s the kind of diversity I can get behind.
…Unison, focus, power. There’s a large playing area, but most of the stage is barren. At once the dozen monks begin reconfiguring the stage. Human sized boxes transforming from training posts into tightly packed barracks. It’s the kind of theatre magic that is breathtaking in its simplicity.
Records say kung fu has 708 move sequences. Despite being woke, I’m still a westerner. So I’ve basically only heard of dragon style.
Dragons there were. The moves exhibited the kind of control and power only previously seen in your brothers favorite anime. Or dubbed action flick.
An orchestra underscores every perfectly timed strike. The sonic palette evoking a fluidity the that manifests itself in the way the performers storytell. With no words a man steps from the ensemble. His body makes a falling crane, catching itself some nonexistent wind. The bird lives in hands then his feet. It peeks out from behind his ear & is carried away. His solo is over.
The boy is now a man. The training of yesterday has turned into the action of today. War and violence tear through the peace that was the temple. Choreographed chaos, and then death.
Something vital has been compromised. Definitely not the budget. High on the spectacle factor but low on integrity. The colonizer has this shtick where he’ll poorly imitate the moves of the monks. It kills every time.
Curtain call. Cast gets a standing ovation. Producing team comes up during applause. A lot of mayonnaise.
Kid monk does a flip centre stage. His potential limitless. In that the enemy couldn’t win. Probably won’t even need a white dad in the next show he is in.
⅗ Black power fists. Mildly entertaining exploitation of an ancient culture. Needs more Shaolin and less Shawn Lin.
Congratulations on a compelling piece of writing!
In general, I think your writing is at its most impactful when you’re being playful with syntax and rhythm. Because you’re working with a lot of sentence fragments (I’m guessing a purposeful style choice) I think the strongest moments are when they’re interspersed with longer sentences as well. Your context and commentary are (not that you need me to tell you this) refreshing and spot on.
I think you could dive further into description because when you dipped a toe in it was powerful. I wanted you to talk more about how the aesthetics of the piece inform or speak to its politics (or lack thereof). It was engaging when you picked one moment and started to describe from that point, rather than attempting to describe your way through the entire performance, which can be tedious to the reader.
Your writing reminds me a bit of one of my magazine’s contributors – James Oscar. But a pared down version. Anyway, you may be interested in reading some of his work.