Edinburgh Fringe 2015
An interpretation of a classic Chinese legend using sword-play and contemporary dance.
Lee Wushu Arts Theatre presents Farewell My Concubine – The Movement of the Martyr. Mixing contemporary dance and traditional swordplay this retelling of a classic Chinese legend, depicting the deep love between the King of Chu and his concubine, is a bold and wonderfully cultural piece. An accessible piece that does not rely on any previous knowledge of the legend or of the culture, it brings all this to the audience.
The music is hauntingly evocative and really helps sets the scene and the atmosphere, teamed with the beautifully understated graphics adding an air of magic to that atmosphere. It is quite a dramatic and intense performance at times, yet with sweet moments that convey their love and longing for one another. Breaking the gender barriers by having both male performers works excellently, perhaps even more so as it lifts the performance from being a more typical retelling of the love story. Equally, two females in these roles would work well too.
It is an aesthetically powerful performance, the two performers are highly skilled in dance and martial arts and blend the two quite well creating a performance rich in both strength and grace. Their agility is astounding at times with their strong, toned figures seemingly light as feathers proving their skill and level of strength. There are some truly beautiful sequences that are deeply moving, the choreography is wonderful and the performance of it impeccable. The use of the puppets, at one stage, is at first strange but becomes captivating to watch and conveys part of the story simply but interestingly.
The beginning of the piece appears disjointed and does not seem to flow too well, however as it progresses this issue dissipates and it is easier to get drawn into the performance. The story is lost slightly at times however that does not detract too much from the experience, the visual aspect of it keeps attention focused on the performers as each movement is flawless and deliberate
The setting is too brightly lit and jars somewhat with the atmosphere that is set by the performances. Transferring this from a Fringe venue to a theatre where a more magical setting can be attained will push this performance up a level. Farewell My Concubine – The Movement of the Martyr is a brilliantly constructed piece with the potential to flourish into a highly polished performance.