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Review: The Escape Game by s**t kingz (da:ns Festival 2020)

When we last saw them at FULL OUT! for da:ns Festival 2019, Japanese street dance quartet s**t kingz charmed us with their cheeky choreography and their commitment to fun as they danced their hearts out onstage. While they can’t be physically present this time, the Esplanade has commissioned and co-produced a brand new digital show from them for this year’s da:ns Festival, one that’s sure to lift your spirits and even evoke a little laughter.

In the whimsical The Escape Game, s**t kingz members Shoji, Kazuki, Noppo and Oguri find themselves cruising down the road in a minivan, with an old treasure map in hand as they zoom off in search of riches. As they go deeper into a forest and encounter a mysterious building however, it seems that things are about to take a sharp turn for the worse.

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Thankfully, seeing as it’s s**t kingz, this isn’t about to turn into a horror film; instead, they find themselves presented with an opportunity to perform to ‘escape’ their predicament. Surrounded by cardboard boxes on an otherwise empty stage, the first thing we notice is that each and every one of these boxes is labelled with words missing the letter ‘C’. Inspired, each member then picks up a box, and in an almost game show-like sequence, randomly combines two of them to create a theme for the next routine.

What this results in is a slot machine of rather zany possibilities. ‘Clean X Concert’ sees them playing around with bags of trash and cleaning paraphernalia, from brooms to toilet scrubs. The act of cleaning up becomes an opportunity to have their own private concert, their smooth moves linking up to form intricate sets that require them to be totally in sync with one another, before they end the sequence punting the trash bags off the stage in a final blaze of glory. In ‘Carry X Careful’, they attempt not to drop a tray of ‘sushi’ while their movements become increasingly frenetic; while ‘Chair X Compete’ has them playing a game of musical chairs, becoming more desperate the less chairs are left.

Always, what makes each set so enjoyable is the vague sense of a story, combining both comedy and dance into a single routine that shows off their boundless energy, slick choreography, and radiant smiles, a youthfulness to them that projects from their bodies through the screen. The use of film also helps us focus on each individual dancer, the lighting capturing their split second poses before they sidle away into yet another complex, cinematic sequence.

As they finish their final routine, they’re rewarded with their treasure at last, alongside freedom from the mysterious theatre. Trundling down the road once again in their minivan, they seem to emit pure unbridled joy as they set off for their next journey (setting up the possibility for a sequel), and remind us of how amidst the darkness and weight the year has brought upon us, there still remains a beacon of light from the little joys in life. Don’t close your browser after the credits just yet – be sure to catch their extra encore number, and leave the performance with a reminder of how important it is to stay connected, even when apart.

The Escape Game streams on SISTIC Live till 31st October 2020 as part of da:ns Festival 2020. For more information and tickets, visit the Esplanade’s website here

da:ns Festival 2020 takes place from 12th to 31st October 2020 online. For more information, visit their website here

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