“The Five & the Prophecy of Prana” Barbican Centre Review

East London dance company Boy Blue Entertainment steal the Barbican Theatre with a mash up of manga and martial art

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

“This time I have you, maybe for something small, but I have you. You are charged with one count of shoplifting and I wish to add possession of a dirty weapon, your fists. This might be a petty crime but with you off the streets for a little while…”

It’s Friday night and the Barbican Theatre has been transformed into a court room. The five juvenile delinquents stood sneering in the dock are Tuggy, Michelle, Maxine, Finch and Stylouse, the main characters of Boy Blue’s latest production “The Five & the Prophecy of Prana”.

“The Five” was masterminded by Boy Blue founders Kenrick “H20” Sandy and Michael “Mikey J” Asante, who worked with Danny Boyle on the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. The duo received an Olivier Award in 2007 for their first stage production “Pied Piper”, and now they’ve just set the bar even higher.

Inspired by Japanese manga and Hong Kong kung fu films, Kenrick and Mikey set out to create an immersive comic book theatre show with a hip hop twist. It all started with a sketch of a martial arts master drawn by Kenrick in 2009, a sketch which would see them training with monks from China’s internationally renowned Shaolin Temple Warrior Monk School just two years later.

Back in the court room, and the Judge is just about to throw the book at the accused when in steps Wang Tang, Grand Master of the Pih Poh Fu martial art form. The five are granted a pardon on the grounds that Wang Tang will train them to become warriors. This is their last chance and we follow their journey as they attempt to save the realm from “The Black Widow” that is sorceress Soo Lin.

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

The 120 minute dance piece is stunning. The performance is set before an animated comic book backdrop which is projected onto several transparent screens, the handy work of Manga artist Akio Tanaka and creative agency Yeast Culture.

Every scene is a martial arts masterpiece with one on one scrapes to full on bar brawls, with breathtaking skills from back flips to breakdancing. At times the plot is a little convoluted with unexplained flashbacks, but considering the pace of the piece you are far too memorized in what is happening next to really notice.

The established cast boasts names such as Tommy Franzen, winner of the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award, Bradley “Bradz” Charles from StreetDance 3D, Frank Wilson and Michele Rhyner.

And then there is the soundtrack. Every move from slow motion to break neck speed is perfectly timed to a 25 track onslaught of hip hop brilliance infused with an oriental tinge. In one particular scene where Stylouse faces “The Ghost”, a masked associate of Soo Lin, the fusion of music and dance is enough to send shivers down your spine. With the hint of a sequel on the horizon this may just be the beginning of “The Five & the Prophecy of Prana”.

The production runs until November 2nd, to find out more information and to purchase tickets please go to www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=14749

Shades of Noir would like to give special thanks to Bridget Thornborrow and her team at the Barbican Centre