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A fitting way to open Manchester's first-ever international festival, "Monkey: Journey to the West" is Damon Albarn's and Jamie Hewlett's (co-creators of Gorillaz) stage adaptation of an ancient Chinese legend .

Dubbed a "circus opera" complete with 45 Chinese acrobats and Shaolin monks (some strung from wires), it's very likely to be an entertaining and amusing collaboration between these British producer/artists and their Chinese counterparts. The stage production has been written by Chen Shi-zheng, classically trained in Chinese opera. He's now a New York City-based film director whose most recent film credit is "Dark Matter," which took a prize at this year's Sundance Festival.

Running from 28 June-7 July 2007 at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, England, the production is designed to help bridge cultural gaps between Oriental and Occidental cultures; local school children will be treated to workshops explaining traditional Chinese art and culture.

As we reported here the promotional overdrive for the event has gone as far as decking out a Virgin passenger train with the artwork of Hewlett.

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