Review: Boy Blue Entertainment - The Five and the Prophecy of Prana - Barbican Theatre

Performance: 2 - 4 October 2014
Reviewed by Symone Keisha - Tuesday 7 October 2014

Boy Blue Entertainent 'The Five and the Prophecy of Prana'. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Performance reviewed: 2 October

Boy Blue Entertainment (BBE) have been recognised as front runners in the hip hop and street dance world from the beginning of the century, and in 2014 they’re still going strong. After premiering the show at the Barbican Theatre last year, BBE are back with The Five and the Prophecy of Prana – an anime (Japanese animation) inspired production that creatively intermixes street dance, martial arts, video and an innovative set. It’s slightly rough around the edges but The Five.. guarantees a night of laughs and awe. With a little refinement, it could become something truly special.

The story unfolds to reveal a plot about deceit, death and the guarding of a powerful prophecy – a conventional narrative for a manga inspired production. However, BBE enhance it with snatches of comedy and proficient choreography. The narrative switches from past to present frequently which at times can make the plot difficult to follow, but the synopsis in the programme helps to clarify events within the performance. The Five… is fast paced in terms of the plot, but is gradual in terms of action that thrills. The first act takes a while to pick up but once it does, it has some startling high points. Characters begin to blossom and notable pieces of choreography and solos appear.

As you would expect with a martial arts based performance, The Five… includes many fight scenes. Unfortunately these are some of the parts which require some polishing. The issue lies within the authenticity of the combat. Much like many hip hop companies, their use of musicality is terrific and BBE utilises this well at almost every opportunity. However, in the fight scenes, the combat is choreographed to each beat in the accompaniment which although makes it pleasing to watch, also makes the combat less believable because it lacks an element of ferocity.

This doesn’t overshadow the martial arts inspired choreography in the rest of the performance though. BBE successfully integrate oriental influences with the skills and style that the cast members already own. It’s a remarkable feat made even more impressive if you’re aware of the styles that each cast member owns outside of this production. Frankie Johnson who plays Stylouse is known in hip hop circles for being a highly competent house dancer, and his skills are well utlised. The combination of the elaborate footwork that house dance requires blended with martial arts produces a refreshing edge, and this is a technique that all of the cast members employ. Theo Oloyade and Kofi Mingo also excel at mixing their background in krump and break dance into the performance.

The production boasts an inventive set which includes a backdrop that relays a comic book style strip and interchangeable boxes of differing shapes that house projections in the manga style. Akio Tanaka, Yeast Culture and Sander Loonen who contribute manga and digital elements to the impressive set, have elevated BBE’s production beyond a simple stage performance.

Cliff hangers are a regular occurrence in manga and anime, so it’s no surprise that BBE’s latest production ends on one. If Kenrick Sandy and Michael Asante, the creators and directors of The Five and the Prophecy of Prana do create a sequel, then I’ll definitely be the first in line to see it.

Boy Blue The Five and the Prophecy of Prana tours the UK until 15 November. Dates & venues:

Symone Keisha recently graduated from Kingston University. Read more from her at and on Twitter @SymoneKeisha

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