river huangpu

Shanghai. Again.

So I went to Shanghai again last week.

(I know. Ridiculous.)

A few thoughts… Consider this a sequel to last year’s concluding thoughts and guide.

The Show

Some cuts that made me sad; some improvements that made me very happy. I’ll do my best not to spoil.

The Porter/Boy Witch story has improved, because they have incorporated moments to replace some of the ones that are missing due to the changed lobby space.

I love one moment where Boy Witch looks at himself in a half-shrouded mirror. If you stand behind him, you see his reflection looking back at him in the mirror, and the Porter, like another reflection, peering at him from behind the curtain to the lobby desk.

And while I still miss the Porter’s mirror in “Moonlight Becomes You,” I love that if you stand in the right spot, you can watch both him and Lady Macduff, their movements mirroring each other.

Boy Witch has a great moment, coming up from the ballroom dance and after teasing the audience at the lost & found, where he walks through a long dark corridor into the lobby. Following behind him, you walk into the darkness, his shadowed outline slowly becoming apparent as you approach the light of the lobby. It’s a powerful moment; Boy Witch in general feels more ominous in Shanghai.

“Witches 1” looks so beautiful. I’ve never found a reliable place to watch the New York version - some angles are always difficult to see. But in Shanghai, the lobby desk functions like a proscenium stage, and if you stand in the center you can see the whole thing clearly. They use the space so well, the witches spending more time behind and atop the counter, and the symmetry of the spacing and the movements is gorgeous to watch.

The lack of “Is That All There Is?” is still a huge loss. :(

I also adore the moment of the Bride dancing in the trees - not only is it beautiful, but it feels achingly like Wendy in Drowned Man.

I’m sad that they cut the hide and seek between Sexy Witch and the Bride on High Street. It was so much fun, although I’d guess that the logistics were too difficult.

I do love the new scene those two have together, but in general I don’t feel like the Bride’s story has as compelling of a narrative arc now as it had in December. Her relationship with Sexy Witch also isn’t as clear to me now.

I really miss Hecate’s fifth floor scene with the Bride, also cut. :( I felt that it incorporated the Bride more clearly into the existing narrative, better clarified her relationship with Hecate, and added emotional resonance to her story.

The Husband has a more developed story now, and I loved the emotional arc of his loop.

Duncan does something totally unexpected and brilliant. Which again, I won’t spoil. But I loved it.

I greatly appreciate how much more dynamic and interesting the loops of Duncan, Cunning Man, and Speakeasy Barman have become. I know there are fans who enjoy watching a character sleep, or sew, or scrub cardboard, but to me these just seem like side effects of poorly defined character loops, and I don’t mourn the loss. I think it’s great that these characters have more to do.

There are new 1:1s. I had some but not others. All of the ones I had impressed me very much. I won’t say anything else since it’s spoilery, but kudos to Punchdrunk for doing a great job developing these. 

The commercialism of the product tie-ins is a little bit distracting. But I don’t think that the integrity of the show itself is compromised. The show is a work of art; I’d rather Budweiser and Kans spend their money on it than on another stupid TV commercial. I think people who criticize forget that art throughout history has been sponsored by those with money.

For the most part, the audience has gotten better since December. The stewarding is great, and one of the Woman in Bar characters actually demonstrates in her lift speech how to give performers space. It helps.

But I did make the mistake of going to the 100th show party, which was by far the worst audience experience I’ve ever had at a Punchdrunk show. I’ve honestly never experienced anything like it. People shoving ahead and pushing you behind them like a wild mob. There was no way to win - either you fall behind and can barely see, or you push ahead too, and either way you feel awful. I can’t imagine how stressful this must have been for the performers as well. :(

On the plus side, 100th show Follies was delightful. (Only it’s not called Follies there, I forget the actual name.) Fun to see such an interesting combination of people on stage - Lily and Sam, Conor and Garth, and several of the local cast.

The Performers

I don’t even know where to begin. There are so many brilliant performers doing exceptional work; even in eight shows I didn’t have time to follow everyone I wanted to see. A few specific thoughts:

Andrea Carrucciu

Andrea is brilliant. I can’t complement his performances enough. He’s exceptionally expressive with both his body and his eyes. From Porter to Macbeth he absolutely transforms, from sweet and awkward to intense and terrifying.  His “Moonlight Becomes You” is beautiful, and his Macbeth is convincing both in his monstrousness as a killer and the aching vulnerability of Macbeth as a man who is in way over his head.

Fania Grigoriou

Fania is delightful to follow and brilliant at engaging the audience. She fully embodies her characters in every way. The contemptuous blasphemy of her Bald Witch must be seen to be believed.

The witch combination of Fania, Miranda, and Olly is the best I’ve ever seen, which is saying a LOT. They have the most amazing energy, pushing each other to the next level, shrieking and cackling and smacking each other, so absolutely delightful and wicked and thrilling. I’m in awe.

Lee Wen Hsin (Debby)

I somehow ended up watching her Dragon Boat scene like five times, and was consistently awed at her performance every time.

Lily Ockwell

In some ways Lily was the star during this visit. Every show she popped up in a surprising role - Lady Macbeth, Bride, Sexy Witch, Lady Macduff, and Nurse.

I never would have expected to see her as Lady Macbeth, but she totally killed it. Lily exudes sympathetic humanity, which made the cruelty of her actions toward Duncan even more painful to watch, and her remorse completely convincing. Her final bathtub scene was heartbreaking.

Also, her Sexy Witch scream in the rave deserves its own credit in the program. I knew it was coming and I still jumped out of my skin.

Liu Yu

His Calloway is charming, handsome, and by the end he remembered the names of everyone in my group. Seems like the entire show might stop running if he ever takes a sick day.

Miranda Mac Letten

Miranda’s Sexy Witch is a work of art. Dark and haunting, more layered and mysterious and compelling than I ever thought Sexy Witch could be. Her bar solo seems to defy gravity and move at light speed; it’s a stunning accomplishment.

Olly Hornsby-Sayer

Olly has totally come into his own as a performer - he’s very confident and comfortable with the audience, and seems like he enjoys his roles. I had a great time following him. At one point as Boy Witch, he startled me and other audience members so much that we screamed out loud. He’s gotten so great at the Boy Witch eye contact and audience interaction. As Speakeasy he was an absolute delight - I found myself laughing multiple times throughout his loop.

Omar Gordon

Some of his dialog as Cunning Man cracked me the fuck up, which I will not quote here because it’s spoilery, but omg. Brilliant.

Omar’s Banquo is also fabulous, never more so than in the ballroom dance, where his chemistry with Fania’s Bald Witch lights up the room.

Sam Booth

Sam is a genius, let’s be honest. He took a character that spends half his NY loop sleeping, and made it into one of the most interesting performances in the show. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say this Duncan feels deeply and uniquely human, and his story is absolutely haunting.

Shen Ni

Her Hecate is riveting and terrifying.

Tang Tingting

In both her roles, she is one of the most impressive Punchdrunk performers I’ve ever seen. She has such presence, and can go from otherworldly and intimidating to profoundly human and sympathetic.

Tim Bartlett

I was very impressed with what I saw of his Taxidermist - didn’t get any 1:1s, but even just watching his loop, I loved the intensity of his nervous energy, and the humor in his friendship with Speakeasy.

The Spaces

The Drama Hotel is open - it’s Shakespeare-themed, expensive, and not designed by Punchdrunk.  It has an outdoor bar on the ground level, which is more lively than the Manderley after the show.

The eighth floor rooftop has the Cosmos Cafe, which looks like a bland version of Gallow Green, also isn’t designed by Punchdrunk, and doesn’t serve alcohol. The views are gorgeous.

The seventh floor has both a speakeasy and a restaurant, also not designed by Punchdrunk. I didn’t go into the restaurant (it doesn’t have vegan options) but I loved the speakeasy. We met a fabulous bartender there named Eddie, who’d traveled the world - his cocktails and conversation rivaled the best bartenders I’ve met anywhere.

The different bars feature two different cocktails named “Sleep No More” - one absinthe-based and one espresso-based. The espresso one was particularly fabulous (and appropriately named!).


A few updates to the recommendations I shared last time:

* James Turrell “Immersive Light” exhibition at the Long Museum. Fascinating series of artworks created with light; worth spending half a day to take it in.

* M50 Arts District, especially the Island6 gallery and its amazing artworks incorporating video, light, sound, and interactivity.

* Propaganda Poster Museum - incredibly interesting, and sheds so much light on China’s historical perspective on the West.

* Huangpu River Cruise at dusk - amazing to watch the futuristic cityscape light up around you as the sun sets.

* Mount Sanqingshan - we took a two-night trip here via high speed train and climbed a beautiful mountain. Thank you @whenwillweawake​ for planning it!

The Drowned Man

I was traveling with a group who were mostly Drowned Man fans, and talking mostly to cast members who’d been in Drowned Man. Everything seemed to bring up memories of it, and we talked about it for hours. It continues to awe me how deeply that show left its impression on our souls.

T Feature: Superstardom -- Kris Wu


During these two years, Kris Wu has showcased to us
His extraordinary points, as a singer, as an actor,
As an idol representing this generation.

In the special issue of T Magazine’s October issue,
We present, in modern day China,
One of the most popular young idols - Kris Wu

On a summer evening, at the Huangpu river in Shanghai, in a place I have been to at least a hundred times, a studio where I had shot countless of celebrities before, but this evening it was somewhat a little different. During the weekends, young people could be seen lounging around the empty lobby, some even sitting by the steps at the roadside. These young people’s faces had no traces of agitation or restlessness, and they merely sat there quietly, from time to time gathering in groups of three to five to chat. Like the parents waiting daily outside schools to fetch their children, the waiting made them feel at ease.

They waited for at least four to five hours, as they had been waiting for their “child” Kris Wu, who was upstairs getting his makeup done, followed with the cover shoot for this issue.

Such a scene is commonplace in Kris Wu’s world.  As one of the most popular young idols currently, his every song and movie is able to create social impact, and his every public appearance is able to generate a crowd as intense as roaring flood waters. Before knocking and opening the dressing room door, I had thought up several exaggerated scenarios, but instead was greeted with the sight of a coffee table packed with packaged takeout boxes. After a polite exchange of greetings, handshake and introduction (“I am Kris Wu.”, he said – as if he had a need to), Kris Wu merely requested gently to the nearby staff for water, not taking a glance at the tableful of takeout dinner. He leaned on the sofa with his arm on it as support, and invitingly gestured for me to take a seat. After which, he chose a suitable position, sitting side by side next to me, and at the same time letting me see his 45 degrees look which turns thousands of fans into a frenzy.

Although it was summer, he was currently sporting a thick woollen coat (later on found out that he was dressed in this manner because the air conditioning was too cold, and the remote could not be found at that moment). Dressed in only black and midnight blue, his look was extremely befitting that of a “cold pretty boy” type of character from a shojo manga – until the next moment, when he noticed the Apple watch I was wearing was encased in a casing with Mickey Mouse ears, like the young guys his age, 25 year old Kris Wu let out a curious yet joyful expression.

His name may be “Yi Fan (ordinary)”, but this 1.87m tall, solemn-eyed, slender-fingered boy is anything but. Of course, he was not merely inherently born with good looks. During the interview, he was quick in response, with logic and clarity. He maintained a fast but uniform pace of speech, his voice loud and clear, answering sincerely with self confidence, and in full.

On the second day of this interview, the adapted film of popular youth novel <Sweet Sixteen> premiered in theatres. Rebellious but righteous Xiaofei in <Mr Six> and passionate, sunny Cheng Zheng who had everything he wanted in <Never Gone> all reflected bits of Kris Wu himself. But as for “Xiamu”, Kris Wu admitted when when he was young, his personality was “more alike to Xiamu’s”. “When I was young I was an introverted child, and didn’t like talking much. Xiamu is a kid who keeps to himself, and is withdrawn. The young me is probably a little like that, of course that was when I was very young, when I grew up I wan’t like that any more.”  He said, <Sweet Sixteen> was it was more of a “film of crime and romance” and not so much a “film of youth”.  "Personally, I feel that this is a more alternative genre of youth film, as it is extremely dark. It’s….really good.“

<Mr Six> re-introduced us to Kris Wu as an actor. However, the success of “Xiao Fei” is not mere coincidence nor specially created for him. “Xiao Fei’s head of silver-white hair is my contribution to the appearance of the character. Other than that, I am solely, to the best of my ability, performing according to the script, and aiming to portray the character well.“ Be it facing the script or being on set in person, Kris Wu has always maintained a "student”’s attitude. “Films are an actor’s artistic creation. It is an actor’s duty to fulfil the director’s request to the best that they can.”

An actor – Kris Wu right now already has enough confidence to describe himself as such. During these two years after returning to China to develop his career, Kris Wu who started off as a singer has taken on the challenge of different characters, role after role, exploring his potential as an actor. Is this something that came about as of late? Or was it as a result of his most initial dream? “It’s because since young I have had an interest in filming!” Kris Wu replied firmly, “Even before receiving movie offers, I have expressed in interviews that I "hoped to become an actor.” This is also why in the short span of these few years I have managed to film so many movies, as acting has completely filled up my schedule.“

What is the greatest joy that acting has given him? "The most meaningful area,” he said, “Is that when the character that I portray appears on the big screen, there will be people who like the character, like the movie because you played that role – and not because you are Kris Wu.” He describes the genre of films that he is into lately as the “mind-boggling” type. “The best would be those where I do not understand after watching it the first time, and would need to ponder it repeatedly, and finally looking up all kinds of hidden meanings online…”

As an actor, in Kris Wu’s own words, one has to “follow instructions very closely”, and on set, do everything according to the director’s orders. “The director is the soul of each movie. As an actor, what I need to do is to become a blank piece of canvas before the director, letting him paint and decorate.” He said, “At any point in time, I will submit myself to the director.” Upon meeting the bold and imaginative Tsui Hark, Kris Wu started to feel the fresh joy of personal creativity. In the film <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter> produced by Stephen Chow and directed by Tsui Hark, Kris Wu acted as the role of “Tang Seng”. “Lao Ye ("Elder Master” - referring to Tsui Hark) has given me much freedom, usually he would just let me portray the character in my style. He is extremely supportive of me to try out more [ways of character portrayal]. Trying out more may result in reaping unexpected results.“

<Valerian>, directed by Luc Besson, is an international film which Kris Wu participated in, and was his first time acting in a science fiction movie. Kris Wu said, he recalled that the director had brought up several times, if <The Fifth Element> was a director’s initial cut trailer, and <Lucy> was the final trailer, now would be the time for the actual movie, and that film would be <Valerian>. The film is an adaptation of Luc Besson’s favourite comic, starring supermodel-turned-actress Cara Delevingne and Hollywood "fresh meat” Dane DeHaan, with an unusual, extraordinary guest lineup which includes pop diva Rihanna and jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

On this film set, Kris Wu experienced the excellent efficiency and prompt scheduling of an international production. He affectionately called Luc Besson “Director Luc”. “Director Luc has invested an enormous amount of effort into this film.” On the topic of Luc Besson, Kris Wu, born when <Nikita> premiered, revealed that he was a long-time fan of Besson. <Leon: The Professional> is one of my favourite films.“ He said, "When I watched <Fifth Element> I was very young, upon seeing some of the aliens, I had felt that it was close to being a horror film. Director’s imagination knew no bounds, his use of colours and music and grasp of visuals are far too astounding for all.” At this point, Kris Wu once again brought up Director Tsui Hark’s name. “They all have extraordinary imaginations, they’re really gifted.”

When the casting of <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter>, directed by Tsui Hark, was officially revealed, everyone was surprised – Why was Kris Wu acting the role of Tang Seng? In fact, Kris Wu’s reply was, “To everyone, this role is perhaps rather strange, but I beg to differ. Honestly, I have been waiting to take on different roles which are full of challenges, and right now the opportunity has come, so I’m really glad. What has excited me the most is that I am able to work with Director Tsui Hark and Producer Stephen Chow once again, which is a highly valuable learning experience to me.” As for how he would describe his portrayal of the role of “Tang Seng”, Kris Wu said that he hoped that he could create something “fresh and never-before-seen” – “Hope that he’ll be cute!”

After developing his career in China for two years, starring in several movies, singing a few melodic movie theme songs, we practically lost sight of Kris Wu as a singer. However, this autumn, the Kris Wu who loves hip hop music is back. He said, for his upcoming new songs, he will be releasing new and fresh tunes. “This time, everyone will be listening to the music genre which I really love. It won’t really be the same as the last time.”

Hip hop music is the reason Kris Wu entered the industry. Growing up through his teenage years in Canada has led him to like this genre of music. “Because I love playing basketball, that’s why I came into contact with hip hop music. At that time, my friends who played basketball with me all listened to hip hop and rap, and I was influenced by them to take a liking to that genre of music. Hip hop is not only a genre of music, but even more so, it is a lifestyle, which includes basketball, street culture, R&B music… I grew up under the influence of this culture, and the music I like is largely associated with this lifestyle.” He shared with me the recent songs he was really into. Drake and Travis Scott were two of his all time favourite musicians, and both recently released new albums. “Especially Drake, since his debut many years ago till now, I’ve kept up with every album that he has released.”

During these couple of years, a large amount of time was spent on making films and trying out even more possibilities, but now that Kris Wu is finally able to return to the world of music which he passionately loves, he hoped to showcase one simple thing: ‘Myself’. “When filming movies, what you portray is the role you act, it is something which the director wants that character to manifest. But when it comes to music, I have one hundred percent freedom to express myself. Kris Wu in his most original essence – this is what I want to convey in my music. What I myself love, more than anything else.”

After the interview. we still ended up talking about what he loves the most, basketball. Kris Wu, who previously had the dream of becoming a professional basketball player, has a genuine and serious love for the sport. “Basketball is really fun!” Talking about his favourite sport, the way of speech that he had shown during the interview disappeared in an instant. “It feels really good after playing for two hours and sweating a whole lot. As long as I don’t end work too late, and am not too tired, I will play basketball.” He had gone to play basketball the night before this interview, and continued with a sheepish expression, “So today I’m a little tired.”

When a 25 year old boy is together with his favourite sport, there is nothing that can tear them apart. No matter how popular Kris Wu is, for the sake of playing basketball he does his best [to accommodate it into his schedule]. “There will always be onlookers present each time. Sometimes fans will follow over, sometimes it’s curious passers-by. Since basketball is an outdoor sport, if there are onlookers, let them watch!”

As the shoot was coming to an end, I left the studio first. It was already late into the night, yet the number of fans waiting at the door was several times more than the amount that had been present in the evening, lined up in an orderly manner from the elevator exit all the way to the roadside.

At that moment, Kris Wu who was upstairs was wrapping up this job, his third one for the day. It was one of the most ordinary days in his life.

translation: @wu_yi_fan

A LIFE IN CHINA: In the beautiful and prosperous city, Shanghai! (上海)
(written by Nikki)

Many people are amazed or shocked when they find out that I live in China. It’s not common to meet someone who lives here, especially if you’re an expat. One of the most common questions that I get is, where do I go to have fun? Where do I go sight-seeing? Having lived in Shanghai, China for my whole life, I know all the places that you need to go visit because if you don’t, you’ll be very disappointed!

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peter grant + tea headcanons

(i blame this on @sixth-light, who is both the instigator to this and whom i have infected with enough plotbunnies already)

-first and foremost: Peter hardly ever throws away tea. he tries not to let it get cold, but growing up poor meant that he was told to eat all the food on his plate and never waste anything, so he’s the kind of person to finish the cup even when it’s lukewarm, even if it means chugging it back.

-except for when he works late and does hard policing work, in which nothing beats Tesco’s builder’s brew. tough, bitter, concentrated, gives him enough kick to focus on whatever leads and clues he’s trying to pull together, and also cheap enough that it’s not something he’s afraid of pouring down the drain if (when) he lets it inevitably turn into slush.

-PG Tips are for casual nights in in front of the telly and Yorkshire Gold is for when he wants something comforting - it’s a remnant from Hendon, a tradition he and Lesley shared. He takes both with a small amount of milk and an obscene amount of sugar, mostly out of habit and slightly out of the look on Nightingale’s face when he catches him.

-but when he watches the rugby with Nightingale, they have loose-leaf Twinings Earl Grey brewed in a pot, mainly because Peter likes the process of making it (it’s a satisfyingly mindless process and it clears his head) and also because he thinks Nightingale is a walking rich bloke stereotype.

-(he’s wrong, btw, because Nightingale is used to builder’s and worse. he was in the WW2, he’s not picky on what tea he drinks and doesn’t really care for the haughty stuff the Folly kept in the parlours anymore. the army rations could strip paint, what came after was copious amounts of alcohol and when he was gallivanting around the world before that he stuck to coffee.

so they have this thing where they watch rugby and Peter makes posh tea and they both think it’s for the other person and it goes on for a few months until it becomes A Thing and…it’s awkward, basically, and a bit sweet)

-Kumar makes the best chai Peter’s ever had in his short life - sweet, concentrated, and full of spices. Kumar brings a thermos every time they go urban exploring/ghost hunting/underground-business-stuff, and Peter treats it like liquid gold every time they meet up.

-When he’s at Bev’s they usually have green, jasmine or chrysanthemum, high-quality non-import stuff shipped directly from Shanghai. Mama Thames gets them on Christmases and Lunar New Years and summers thanks to a friendly visit from the Huangpu river and now Beverly won’t touch anything with caffeine in it.

-Varvara introduces him to salted Mongolian milk tea that she was exposed to when she was staying in Harbin during the 80′s, lying low and hiding from the KGB. it’s concentrated and creamy and very, very rich. on rough days, he makes that with full-fat milk, cream and a dash of scotch. (on really rough days, he goes straight to the scotch, if not the heavier stuff.)

-Now, as for coffee - coffee is for pulling stake-outs on night watch, not for drinking casually. he’ll take what he can get from the all-nite corner store, but whenever he drinks it voluntarily, he wants it black, bitter and expensive. No milk to dilute the taste, no sugar, and definitely none of the instant shit. Mum used to bring beans from Sierra Leone and Dad got a taste for it and that’s the only coffee he’ll ever savour instead of chugging back like a shot.