Famed monkey takes a new direction in New York

Updated: 2013-07-06 02:25

By KELLY CHUNG DAWSON in New York (China Daily)

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Hewlett designed the titles for the BBC's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning him an award from Bafta, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. He also won the Design Museum's Designer of the Year Award in 2006 for his work with Gorillaz.

Hewlett and Albarn traveled to China many times while working on the music and other areas of the production, visiting Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and several other cities, even climbing "Monkey Mountain" in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province.

On that journey, Hewlett saw a shadow-puppet show that inspired him with its simplicity — an influence that can be seen in the animation in Monkey: Journey to the West.

Although it has frequently been adapted for youngsters, Monkey: Journey to the West aims to attract a broader audience. The inclusion of Albarn and Hewlett will appeal to people in their 20s and 30s, said Nigel Redden, director of the Lincoln Center Festival.

He believes it's especially important for Americans to see Chinese culture in its most modern incarnation, rather than through viewing dusty bronzes, for example.

Beyond being an exciting story about friendship and loyalty, the tale of the Monkey King is also one of emotional depth, he said.

"It's an adventure story, filled with derring-do and improbable challenges, but it's also a story in some ways about spiritual awakening, and spiritual awakening is important to anyone who has a spirit," he said.

Dong Bourui, who plays Sandy, said the Monkey King is the first story that many Chinese children are taught.

"This story has shaped the world view of Chinese people from generation to generation. These are the values we teach children in China," he said.

Chen, the writer and director of the production, believes the story is an ideal entry point for Western audiences to Chinese culture.

"This show is representative of what China will be in a hundred years," he told China Daily.

"This hybrid of pop music and animation with martial arts and Peking Opera is both China yesterday and tomorrow. Putting them together is something new. To me, it's a eulogy about Chinese society, about growing up, responsibilities and about our own flaws."

Chen previously directed Nixon in China at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.


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