Boy Blue interview: 'Today's viewer doesn't want it to be simple'

East London dancers Boy Blue tell us why their new show is like ‘Breaking Bad’



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Boy Blue Entertainment made their reputation with an Olivier Award-winning hip hop version of the ‘Pied Piper’ story, last seen in 2009, but they laugh at the idea they haven’t done anything to match it since. ‘We’ve only done something like the bloody Olympics!’ says choreographer Kenrick Sandy, who helped create the Opening Ceremony. Okay, that, we have to admit, was quite a big deal.

The east London company’s star has been steadily rising since it was founded in 2002 – by Sandy and music producer Mikey Asante – but becoming associate artists at the Barbican in 2009 bumped them up to the next level. ‘First off we were playing with Play-Doh,’ says Asante, ‘then with Lego, then Meccano, and now it’s bricks. The success has put us in a different space.’

© Rob Greig

The latest building project is a manga-inspired show, ‘The Five & the Prophecy of Prana’, made in collaboration with Japanese artist Akio Tanaka. It’s a fusion of all things Eastern and Western. Sandy studied wushu martial arts with Shaolin monks to absorb taekwondo and wung chun into his emphatic hip hop choreography, and the show’s method of storytelling kung fukicks Western linear narrative to the curb in favour of a more experimental manga style. It took some getting right, though. ‘We were communicating our story idea to Tanaka’s editors,’ says Asante. ‘And it was clear they thought it wasn’t very good, from a manga point of view.’

The revised result is a more shifting, layered, imaginative form. ‘We’re going to give the audience breadcrumbs,’ says Asante, suggesting they’ll be dropping narrative clues rather than painting things in black and white. But that might not be such an alien approach for the home crowd, after all. ‘Look at the biggest TV phenomenon right now, “Breaking Bad”,’ says Asante. ‘I love the way “Breaking Bad” would start an episode with some scene of madness, then the credits would begin and you wouldn’t have any connection between that and the rest of the episode till maybe half an hour in. Today’s viewer doesn’t want it to be simple. They like to get the breadcrumbs.’

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