Her Majesty’s Theatre, Thu 1 Oct
This OzAsia Festival show is full of surprises. The very tender publicity photo fooled me into thinking this was purely a love story, and while the quest for love is definitely a theme, this multimedia music theatre piece is much richer than that.
Led by the confident and charming Zhang Yicheng as playboy Gao Yuan, this terrific ensemble of very energetic and multi-talented young performers dance, sing and act their way through this very funny, pertinent and non-stop show.
Modern China is now facing the westernisation of their ancient culture with changing morals, get-rich-quick-schemes and the commercialisation of sex.
Following the premise that “the worse you write, the more books you sell”, Gao Yuan sets his team of minions to writing the “worst erotic novel ever”, gleaning all the personal experience possible first, of course, with very entertaining results. Using ‘sexy crazy girl’, You Youyou (played by the perky and delightful Kong Yan) as the pseudo-author they sell millions of books and Yuan drowns himself in all the hedonistic pleasures money can buy.
In a total change of pace, he wakes in hospital having had a heart transplant. When sweet and mysterious Shen appears in his room and says she is in love with his heart, his world changes but his new heart cannot totally change his old appetites and we see the man pulled between the power of lust and yearning for love. The juxtaposition of these forces is supported stunningly in the gorgeous red, white and black themes throughout the piece, the beautiful set design (by Zhang Wu) and funky costumes (by Zhao Yan) enhancing and informing the action.
With lots of well-performed songs, from sweet and plaintiff to the hilariously explosive rock and roll band in Yuan’s hospital room, the music and soundtrack are an added bonus. The dance pieces and movement throughout were fantastic and a huge addition to the overall entertainment value of this show. The script by Liao Yimei is innovative, quirky and full of humour and the direction and performances found plenty more.
I would have liked to see some emotional connection between Shen and Yuan, to have one moment of the tenderness depicted in the publicity photo so that I knew Gao Yuan really had changed, had given his heart and that Shen was seeing him, and not her lost lover. As it was, it was only spoken about amid the conflict.
With that said, this is a vibrant, highly entertaining and wonderful piece of work, rich with humour and fun, while sardonically addressing some of the temptations facing China’s youth today. A credit to all involved.
Amber continues at Her Majesty’s Theatre from 7.30pm until Fri 2 Oct.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
[Spoken in Mandarin with English surtitles]