Jamie Hewlett’s Monkey opens in Covent Garden

Monkey, former Designer of the Year Jamie Hewlett’s visual extravaganza, opened last night to a rapturous reception at London’s Royal Opera House.

The ‘Chinese operatic circus’ production, which combines the acrobatic elements of Cirque du Soleil and the characterisation of populist productions like The Lion King, has been adapted by New York-based director and choreographer Chen Shi-Zheng from 16th century Chinese author Wu Cheng-en’s legendary tale of the Monkey King.

Hewlett’s visual concept, design and animation, which is brought to life by Chen’s direction, and fellow Gorillaz collaborator Damon Albarn’s musical composition, premiered at last year’s Manchester International Festival.

Its progression to the prestigious platform of the Royal Opera House has been hailed as an exciting advance, the ‘melding of many styles’.

Hewlett’s bold and, at times, illusory graphics seamlessly blend acrobatic spectacle and fast moving martial arts sequences, with fantastical characters and scenes.

While technology has opened the arts up to notions of ‘virtuality’, Hewlett’s visual concept has perhaps taken this trend in the opposite direction, creating an animated, graphically styled production.

Monkey: Journey to the West runs at the Royal Opera House for seven performances until 26 July.

You can watch the making of Monkey: Journey to the West on BBC iPlayer at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b007shx1.

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