Saturday, January 22, 2011

The House Of Dancing Water


After an absolute age, today we finally got round to visiting Macau to see the House of Dancing Water. Last night I got very excited and told everyone I met that I was going to the City of Wet Dreams, but they hadn't seemed very impressed.

I wasn't impressed either when the ferry stopped and sat in the water in the middle of nowhere, without any sort of announcement. The boat bobbed up and down, and I looked out the window, and saw nothing but sea, while the assorted Chinese chaps on the ferry got up and looked out the front windows. I guess they saw some more sea, because they kept getting up and looking, and then standing around looking rather disappointed. Eventually the ferry moved again, after an announcement that they were waiting for another boat to leave. Ah well, no bones broken.

When we arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel, we found they didn't have any non-smoking rooms left. I feared that like the Taipa Best Western (world's hardest beds! filthiest carpets! unhelpful staff!) this meant we were going to be put into a room with nicotine flavoured air and yellow-brown decor, but instead, we were upgraded to a suite on a non-smoking floor, an enormous thing that was about the size of our flat in Hong Kong, if not bigger.

Well, that was nice, but the main reason we were in Macau was to see the House of Dancing Water, so after a few hours of stumbling around the hotel (with its own artificial beach by the third floor swimming pool, just in case you wanted to play volleyball) we wandered down to the theatre to see the show.

I was surprised that the auditorium wasn't bigger: I expected something on the dimensions of the Albert Hall in London, where I've see Cirque du Soleil perform, but it was smaller - not exactly intimate, but we didn't feel that we were in a different administrative region to the performers. Because our package tickets meant we were in the last row, we had more comfortable seats than those in front of us, because ours could swivel. Like everyone else, we were blinded to begin with by the constant strobing of camera flashes (apparently nobody in the audience could understand the announcement at the start in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, and had to be told individually by the ushers to stop taking photos with the flash on) but this soon stopped and we could concentrate on the performance.

At least half the show is wonderfully impressive; the divers, leaping from ever more ridiculous precipices (or being flung into the air from a playground swing so they can take a huge parabolic swan dive into the water), really play it up. I'm pretty sure I saw a fifty foot belly-flop at one point, which has to be something special. The lunacy of twenty acrobats in the shape of a chandelier, flinging one another around high in the air, was another high point, and the appearance of six freestyle motocross mentalists at the end was something else again. There's nothing like the incredible roar of an unsilenced engine as a madman revs it to death, spinning the bike as he swoops across the auditorium. Then again, I'm a petrolhead so I probably would have been quite happy with a recording of a man gunning an engine for ninety minutes, rather than the orchestra, but that says more about my cultural problems than yours.

When people aren't flying through the air or splashing into the water, the show does slow a bit. Perhaps I'm jaded, or perhaps I've now seen too much interpretative dance, but the sight of fifteen women doing syncronised writhing on the ground no longer does it for me. I suppose the show does need some calmer moments so the audience don't leave at the end with their liquified brains seeping out their ears, but the effect is for the show to feel a little uneven. Plus there's a video show in the background where a computer generated woman who looks like a refugee from five years ago does strange things with balls.

OK, we were probably in the wrong section of the hall to see that properly, but it didn't do anything to add to the action on the stage itself, which was beautiful, a combination of the strange and wonderful things the human body is capable of, and some obviously wonderful engineering to ensure the human bodies don't collide or smash themselves to pieces while doing strange and wonderful things.

There's also a contortionist who does a good impression of a spider, and that really creeped me out. Ah well.

After the show, we made the most of being in a casino by ... by eating some pizza and then going back to our suite to watch television. That's how we roll.

Actually, it was a bit more exciting than that sounds. We had a tube of Pringles from the minibar.


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