Theatre Review: Empty Orchestra

Words: Andy Kells
Friday 10 November 2023
reading time: min, words

Andy Kells reviews Empty Orchestra at Nonsuch Studios...

64959Df6bf99287ba27ac324 Keownphoto.Lewysholt.Emptyorchestraleeds. Lead Image

Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… something else.

‘Empty Orchestra’ is the English translation of Japan’s gift to wannabe pop stars worldwide, Karaoke- where overexcited partygoers and despondent salarymen take the mic to grab their own moment of showbiz glam. Sometimes it’s amazing; sometimes it’s painful…

Empty Orchestra takes us in both directions, expressing the pain and pleasure of Karaoke through a unique immersive dance performance, to explore the risk and reward of creating stuff for others and ourselves.

While one of the dancers sings, the others perform-  sometimes in harmony, sometimes despite the performances of one another, sometimes despite the very, very, very long ending of a song.  

Surrounding the brazen ballads, pop classics, and party bangers, there’s a well rehearsed awkwardness and deliberate honesty to their performance. The interaction between performers leaps, shuffles and bootyshakes from funny to awkward, to uncomfortable, to joyous as they work alone and together.

The karaoke screen turns to face us

Lewys Holt’s dance crew work hard to show us who we all are when we try to reach for the stars- awkward, imperfect, and when we least expect it, magical. The choreography takes a lot of chances, and leaves us to decide whether they work for us or not. This is not the edited slickness of Stars in Their Eyes or Pop Idol, this is us. 

By the end of the performance, we’re gently nudged by Empty Orchestra to put ourselves outside our comfort zone- the karaoke screen turns to face us and the dance crew join us in the audience. 

You won’t find shows like Empty Orchestra in Vegas, or London’s Glittering West End- Empty Orchestra is very personal to the performers, and because of that it’s very personal to us- it challenges you to build your own opinions on what you’re watching, and work out what is more important- performance, or performing.

Empty Orchestra appeared at Nonsuch Studios on Thursday 9 November 2023 and continues its tour for another four dates

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