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Review: Scott Silven – The Journey (HKAF 2021)

Screenshot 2021-03-11 at 6.27.42 PM

In life, it’s the journey we walk together, not the destination that matters.

HONG KONG – In a time where travel has been all but eradicated, the need to find new ways of connection has become more important than ever. Seeking to tighten our emotional proximity, illusionist Scott Silven launches his new online show The Journey, and welcomes audiences into his home in Scotland from wherever in the world they happen to be. 

But how exactly does one ‘travel’ virtually and still have it hit all the right emotional notes? Perhaps, like casting a spell, it requires a few key ingredients. For starters, we were tasked to prepare a few things before the performance: an object of meaning to us, two pieces of paper, and a thick marker. Not knowing what to expect, we simply allowed Scott to be our virtual, spiritual guide, as we prepared to look closer, trust our intuition, and draw the image in our minds:

What follows is an immersive experience that utilises storytelling and illusion to bridge the physical gaps between ourselves, the other audience members, and Scott, as we all embark on this spiritual journey together. Right from the start, we listen to Jherek Bischoff’s music, putting us in a dreamy, surreal state of mind. Segueing into a video taking us to vast landscape, we can practically feel the wind against our face, smell the salty ocean, while birds chirp and goats bleat in the background, leaving us completely at peace in this serene scenario. Time seems to dissolve as we are instructed to focus on a circle of light in front of us, zooming in on a specific time in our life, and the memories it evokes.

Storytelling is a key part of the experience, something Scott does effectively thanks to his vivid descriptions, and the way they’re accompanied by illusions to evoke the story’s message. We hear of Kelly, a young boy with a fascination with cairns (a man-made stone tower), and are told to think about the time and people around us. Scott assembles a cairn of his own, using everyday objects as his building blocks, leading us to reflect on the careful balance we constantly maintain in life, and our desire to connect, filling the gaps in between. Thanks to clever visuals, we feel an almost supernatural connection with the other audience members, a realisation that we’re going through the same experience and emotions that bonds us across cyberspace.

Throughout the experienceour minds are constantly filled with imagery, using evocative words and music to bring out our memories, like a string of photographs in our heads. Each time Scott speaks, it feels as if we’re uncovering a new layer to our thoughts, reminding us how simple it is to have conversations and make connections, and how it feels as if we’re on the verge of discovering some deep philosophical truth. This is helped by the show’s stagehands, who ensured smooth transitions and did a great job of putting participants in the space so the storytelling was never interrupted.

The Journey is also the kind of art that prompts personal reflection, almost like looking into a mirror of ourselves. It reminds us who we are, what we live for, and centres our train of thought as we remember an important time in our life and the core emotions in that moment. In a way, we think of it as an anchor to keep us grounded in these uncertain times as we feel lost in the wilderness, lost even when we’re wandering alone in the confines of our own homes. It’s all we can do to find comfort again in our shared time, shared connection, and shared conversations, and know that we are never alone.

As Scott unveils the big reveal, I’m realise how caught up in the moment I was, and how immersed in the world I had become, that it’s all one big illusion to charm and entertain. But upon further thought, perhaps it’s more than that – a reprieve, an escape for an hour as I connected with complete strangers, slowly but surely warming up by the end of the piece, regardless of distance in time and space. At the end of it all, The Journey kept us hooked throughout, having us invest our emotions fully, and making the choice to remain connected on this journey, to each other.

Through The Journey, Scott has shown us that sometimes we need to look at ourselves, look around us, and appreciate it all. As each of us embark on our own journey, we think back to the vast landscape of the Scottish Highlands we witnessed, and wonder again what else we hold dear to us in our memories. And we ready ourselves for another journey into the centre of our souls, letting our imagination take us where we find peace once more.

Scott Silven – The Journey ran till 14th March 2021 online as part of the 49th Hong Kong Arts Festival. 

The 49th Hong Kong Arts Festival runs from 27th February to 4th April 2021. Tickets and full programme lineup available here

1 comment on “Review: Scott Silven – The Journey (HKAF 2021)

  1. Pingback: SIFA 2021: The final Interview with Gaurav Kripalani as SIFA’s Festival Director – Bakchormeeboy

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