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Review: The Accountants at Factory International is ‘a innovative insight into cultural identity and relationships’

The Accountants at Factory international is a fascinating dive into cultural identity and relationships
The Accountants

A big QR code and, projected on a screen, an endless Excel spreadsheet that never stops changing, updating, digesting and regurgitating data.

This is what welcomes the audience at the Factory International and sets the premises for The Accountants, the ambitious stage spectacle created by Keith Khan (artist, director, designer).

The Accountants at Factory International

The Accountants
A scene from the world premiere of Keith Khan’s The Accountants photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Once scanned, the QR code leads the audience to some questions about themselves: their seat number, their age, their hometown.

All answers are projected on the big screen, impossible to ignore. The questions get more complex: how many hours have you slept? How many steps have you taken? Right before the show starts, a few perplexed faces can be spotted as the questions get more intimate (“How happy are you?”) and the only way to answer is with numbers, no words are allowed.

Soon, the whole audience is the Accountants, prying into each other’s lives, trying to decrypt those numbers and their meaning.

But there is no time to waste: the captivating soundtrack by the ARIAS-nominated sound artist Somatic kicks off the start of this new emotional journey, beautifully played out by global dance icons from China and India, and with moving images designed by Manchester-based studio idontloveyouanymore.

A tale of two faceless, bodyless characters

The Accountants is a conversation, consumed through texts and voice notes, between two characters from the UK who are investigating their cultural identity: Kash (voiced by Shobna Gulati), a British Indian woman who has never left Manchester but thinks to know everything about China and India, and her nephew/friend Liam (Josh Hart), a mixed-race Chinese on a trip to India and China.

They share an intense friendship, where Liam often relies on his aunty to question his life choices and understand his place in the world.

We never see the two characters, but we get to learn about their personality through their texting style, their Google searches, the little medication reminder on Aunty Kash’s phone screen.

Data, numbers and words on the big screen are all we get to understand the complexity of two characters from different generations and cultural backgrounds, mirroring the experience the audience had before the show started, when a simple Excel sheet was showing others’ personal information.

Outstanding stage design

The Accountants
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

In the background, projected imagery shows figures and data about China and India, their history and their culture in numbers, while the fight that is going on inside the two characters mind is played out by 12 accountants (all talented dancers from the internationally renowned Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company and Xiexin Dance Theatre).

Against the backdrop of this intergenerational friendship, the dancers embody two competing accountancy firms interpreting, through movement, the desire to assess the world around us and find our place in it.

At the end of the first act, the audience is left with a lot of questions about themselves but there is just a little time to unpack any emotion before the second act, faster-paced and even more intense, starts.

The collusion of dance, sound and video creates a collective experience where all races, cultures and identities are invited to join this poignant and heart-breaking conversation and realise we are all unique but not alone.

A visionary journey, an intimate conversation with ourselves The Accountants is not just an exploration of national and cultural identity, it is also a deep dive into the prominence of China and India in the 21st century.

Director Keith wanted to create something big, with virtual media and, since he began his research in 2019, he has collaborated with leading dance companies in Shanghai and Mumbai, speaking with several cultural producers and artists
about their dreams and their life in their own countries.

The show explores data, cultural expectations, communication through new technologies, and even career choice (“You are the only Asian person who is afraid to tell his parents he wants to become an accountant”, Aunty Kash laughs when Liam confides his career choice).

The different ways the two characters (and soon the audience, joining their journey) think about themselves and their role within society, their struggles, their inner battles are unfolded on the stage, choreographed by talented Mahrukh Dumasia, Terence Lewis and Xie Xin.

Tickets for The Accountants at the Factory International

The Accountants (7-11 May) is a world first collaboration marking the UK debut for the renowned Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company (Mumbai, India) and Xiexin Dance Theatre (Shanghai, China), and another exceptional treat made possible by the ambitious year-round programme of creative events at the Factory International.

Grab your tickets for The Accountants at the Factory International and enjoy what is already one of the most brilliant spectacles of the year.

You can get tickets by clicking here

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