Be Like Water is a creation from the mind of UK-based artist, Hetain Patel. The piece invites the audience on the journey of self-discovery Patel is taking; specifically, finding his own self in-between the two role models he’d always wanted to be – his father, and Bruce Lee. Whilst it’s a strange concept it’s also one that allows humour, intelligence, and a great deal of enjoyment.

The two themes, Patel’s father and Bruce Lee, are mirrored perfectly through the different tools used to both entertain, and intrigue, the audience. From home videos and personal monologues to choreographed kung-fu sequences, Be Like Water covers a vast variety of different performance techniques. This could appear unhinged or disconcerting, however, Patel teams up with Yuyu Rau who he describes as his ‘translator, avatar or something in between’ to add fluidity to the piece.

The use of video projections plays a vital role throughout. From pre-recordings of Patel’s father giving a tour of his northern factory, to live streaming of the stage itself, the stage and screen compliment each other perfectly.

Patel chooses to speak in Chinese for most of the performance which allows himself and Rau to create some wonderful moments, beginning with a great deal of hilarity as Rau translates to the audience that Patel is saying such sentences as “I’m only speaking in Chinese to hide my Northern accent.” Later, Rau attempts to teach Patel how to speak ‘proper’ English, which brings up themes of national identity, tying in with the production’s overruling question of who we are.

It’s an extremely short performance, lasting only 50 minutes, however, the journey it takes throughout is quite remarkable. The final 10 minutes or so sees Yuyu Rau perform a solo contemporary dance to live music, performed by Ling Peng. The movement sums up so beautifully the concept of the whole performance, it really does have to be seen. The choreography mirrors perfectly Patel’s search for his own identity you don’t want it to end as it seems it might give us some answers we’d been hoping for, however, Be Like Water ends just in time to allow the audience to come to their own conclusions.

The production is entitled Be Like Water, but by the end of the performance it becomes clear the audience are being taught to not ‘be like’ anything. Rather, to be nothing but themselves; for that’s exactly what makes this production so wonderful, it isn’t like anything else.

Annie Macarthur


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