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‘The Accountants’ – how new theatre dance piece is redefining traditional spaces…

‘The Accountants’ – how new theatre dance piece is redefining traditional spaces…

Artist Keith Khan talks to acv about his new show which has a number of different elements to it …you can also read the review (see link below) – show ends tomorrow

WORKING remotely with two troupes of dancers – one in India – and the other in China sounds like a recipe for confusion but – if anything – Keith Khan’s ambitious ‘The Accountants’ is a success.

Widely praised this week, Khan told working with the two sets of six dancers from each country has been inspirational and they have collaborated in a way he didn’t understand as possible initially.

Keith Khan

For the most part, the dancers worked in their respective locations of Mumbai and Shanghai.

“We did have a research and development period in October but they have been amazing collaborators – I thought it was going to be more divided but they’ve been really collaborative and it’s been lovely.”

The Accountants’ is a large scale vision piece and is neither a conventional dance show, nor a traditional drama you would expect on a stage – it uses the space and contains big ideas encapsulated within the movement and text displayed.

It does have a narrative and two characters voiced by Shobna Gulati (Kash) and Josh Hart (Liam). They play an Indian origin British Indian auntie and a mixed race British Chinese heritage accountant – and both exchange banter on their phone, often comparing and contrasting the two countries as Liam is actually on a tour of India and China.

“I was basically looking to make a show about money and accounting – and then I thought the best people to deliver it, after researching it, would be people from India and China.”

Before the pandemic Khan identified the dance troupes he wanted to work with for ‘The Accountants’.

From Keith Khan’s ‘The Accountants‘ ©TristamKenton

It is also about data, and digital and how we negotiate and process information, coming from all sides. Khan told acv that he wanted to look through a lens at the two countries whose economic expansion continues apace.

Khan explained: “Nothing is made up – we’ve taken quotes and statistics from what is out there. They’re quotations from everywhere – it’s a bit like a website and we’re dipping in and out of a lot of information.”

Audiences can see some of this displayed on large phone screens and the two characters converse – with the Liam on the move, while Auntie Kash is at home.

From Keith Khan’s ‘The Accountants‘ ©TristramKenton

There are moments of tension between the two characters with each slightly showing what you might a term a natural bias because of their heritage.

“We’re taking stuff that is already out there – we’re not imagining or inventing – that is why it’s called ‘The Accountants’ – everything we have in this show is data.

“So, we get to know there have been five Indian women who have been in space and there are three Chinese who have been. We’re not making any value judgements on this – we are just presenting information. It’s up to people how they interpret them.”

The conversation between Liam and Auntie Kash goes into areas that have not been much covered – such as that in China, dating apps are very popular – as much as 80 per cent of the population is looking for a partner this way, whereas in India it is significantly less.

From Keith Khan’s ‘The Accountants‘ ©TristramKenton

There’s a lot going on – both on the stage and in the heads of the central characters. It looks deliberate.

“We’re living in a very digital age and it’s a multimedia show,” Khan said to further make the point.

Khan hints that more theatre should look like this in the future.

The dancers form a narrative of their own and both have considerable pedigrees in their respective countries.

Terence Lewis – the choreographer behind Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company – is a judge on one of India’s most popular TV dance competitions and his number two Mahrukh Dumasia has also been much involved in ‘The Accountants’.

The Chinese lead dancer is Xie Xin – who was one of the winners of a popular TV dance show in China and has gone onto to establish her own outfit in Shanghai and has an international following already.

“I am so excited to be working internationally,” reflected Khan. “The dancers are very confident about what their culture means and how it can be expressed. We’re not talking about identity politics, we’re not navel gazing – and it’s very refreshing an artist to be working with people that are modern and forward-looking.”

From Keith Khan’s ‘The Accountants‘ ©TristramKenton

The data aspect forms only half of the show – the second is quite different.

“It’s a world almost without data – and it’s how do we relate to each other in that setting? It’s almost another world and it’s about issues such as death, happiness and things that cannot be defined by data,” said Khan whose last big project was Leeds 2023, and helping 33 different districts produce motifs and badges which clothing company Burberry made and put on display to celebrate borough specific creativity.

There have been many collaborators to make ‘The Accountants’ possible and Khan is keen to stress how they have all worked together.

“Just doing a show on data would have been boring and so we’ve shifted a lot of the conversations to what happen when we don’t talk about data,” he told acv with a wry smile and a glint.

We don’t think you have heard the last of ‘The Accountants’.

Review –

The Accountants’ by Keith Khan is only until (May 4-) May 11 at Aviva
Studios (Factory International), Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ.
More info/book:

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture