We Built This City: Josie Ho Goes Avant-Garde For Her Next Performance
When local pianist KJ Wong and band Josie and the Uni Boys—led by queen of rock Josie Ho—come together in a Zuni Icosahedron production this month, it will be like nothing you’ve seen—or heard—before.
Titled The Architecture of the City and directed by Zuni’s Mathias Woo, it’s a multimedia show combining live performance, images, music, staging and lighting to create a monument to Hong Kong, exploring its past and present. Against a set featuring bamboo scaffolds recalling architectural signatures of the city, the performers will deliver new arrangements of their music, turning them into pieces of Hong Kong and pieces of memory.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” says Josie. “We always just go with the songs straight up.” But when she and her band take to the stage at the Cultural Centre, it will be to play Josie and the Uni Boys’ songs rearranged with the aid of Zuni’s music director, Yu Yat-yiu. They will reference, as Josie puts it, “Bolero and Bach in a classical and rock ’n’ roll crossover,” with piano accompaniment by KJ Wong.
Mathias’ production is inspired by a seminal book of the same name by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Aldo Rossi, who posits that architecture contains the imprint of citizens’ lives, history and culture and that cities are the collective memories of their people.
Some of the songs have been reworked to such an extent that Josie has to “sing in gibberish—I can yell, I can sing, but I just can’t speak any language,” says Josie, whose performance is designed to evoke a city’s soundscape. She’s delighted by the prospect and by the avant-garde nature of the show, which harks back to her early acting days when she dabbled in experimental theatre.
As well as the arresting set and intriguing sounds performed by some of the city’s leading musical talent, the costumes also reference Hong Kong, having been created from recycled material, such as cans, paper, plastic and hemp bags, to reflect the cityscape and as a comment on the environmental challenges faced by cities.
“Zuni Icosahedron is famous for its art installation and lighting,” says Josie of the experimental theatre company. “Their stage design is always really cool, so I’m sure this will be a multipurpose stage and there will be a lot of things to watch. Zuni is very artistic. I’ve seen some of their plays and I always enjoy them. They always have deep meaning and lots of drama.”
The Architecture of the City, it seems, has plenty in store for Hong Kong.
The Architecture of the City plays at 8:15pm on January 11 and 12 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Buy tickets and find out more at zuniseason.org.hk
See also: A Look Back At Old Hong Kong With Keith Macgregor