Iliterate Poet

A dumping ground for my works in progress.

19 Oct 2012

Chinese State Circus Review.

Chinese State Circus review.

As a national celebration and showcase of Chinese culture, the Chinese state circus woefully lacked the shock and awe that one would expect from such a culture. Individually the acrobatic and musical performers were fantastic but the whole show lacked creative direction; flipping from one trick to another in a somewhat ad hoc style.

 The musicians were brilliant whilst they stuck to the cultural music, but it became inane and patronising as we were forced to sit through a mixture of Chinese cultural music interspersed with Western style pom-pom music - I am all for mixing and sharing cultures, in fact I encourage it wherever possible; but it has to be done for the right reasons to retain its integrity and this quite frankly, just felt like a technique to soften the audience into an  endearing compliance.

 I now understand why all the other reviews bang on about the audience participation, the enthralled crowd etc. but as some of us are aware and as was evidenced by my own eyes on many occasions and it is this: crowds are usually like sheep in that they follow each other for fear of not fitting in, so when each performer insists on coming to the very edge of the apron, actively and nauseatingly encouraging the audience to clap after each and every individual act, is it any wonder that the crowd appeared enthralled? We shall also quickly overlook the fact that during parts of the show, the Giant yin yang decal on the cyclorame turned into a giant kaleidoscope to ensure an hypnotic audience participation - really! they pulled out all of the stops when it comes to ninja mind tricks.  

 As a fun night out I thought it was acceptable and I did enjoy myself, but then that was the choice I made more because of my cheery disposition; and the fact I was out with my family increased my enjoyment of the evening. At one point I was accosted by an impish clown as I was plucked from the front row and dragged up on stage to perform some dodgy gung-fu moves which were instructed by the impish and mischievous clown, this was all good fun and kinda stroked my ego enough that it became the highlight of the night.

 If we try to ignore the fact that the wow factor came from Tibetan-monk-style-fighting-tricks and also try to ignore that Tibet is not China and that China Occupies Tibet under duress and also ignore the fact that this was supposed to be a celebration of Chinese culture, then we can stomach this most splendid part of the show. Things started getting strange when a Chinese flag the width of the stage was unfurled from the rafters whilst we were treated to dancers standing and gesturing to the over-sized, overbearing flag, a little bit unnerving to say the least. As propaganda goes this was sort of like what I imagine living in Germany during Hitlers reign would be like, you know... just right at the beginning of that dreadful period. The show lacked in continuity and that extra bit of professionalism one would have expected from such a rich country.

The tricks (and there is no doubt that some were definitely tricks, as opposed to skill), lost some of their shine as quite a few performers made mistakes such as dropping things, well, you might say: "That type of thing happens in a live show and stop being so harsh"; but believe me! I wouldn't have mentioned it, except that when the spinning plates are obviously stuck to the sticks as witnessed when one performer dropped hers and the panicked bastard (assistant stage manager - tenuous pun, apologies to all concerned) came running from the wings in order to cover-up this faux pas, then one can hardly leave this fact out. Next we could mention the dirty and torn costumes - the dancing dragons looked as if they'd been pulled through a hedge backwards and many of the other costumes appeared worn down and tatty, again adding to the overall impression that the arts are either not important to the Chinese Government or that they simply don't have any money in the bank to fund a proper tour that expresses China's stature on a global stage, this was probably  the most startling revelation of the whole evening.

 If we compare it to the Cirque du soleil for instance, it pales into insignificance, in fact, the Chinese state circus would be considered a warm up at best by the Cirque du soleil troop. When people are on stage they should remain in character at all times, not look at each other and smile or stand slumped etc, this would never happen at Cirque du soleil - Sophistication and scale were lacking, The Cirque du soleil would never even consider performing in a 500 seat capacity theatre, they wouldn't have enough room for even one tenth of their equipment. To conclude: The Chinese state Circus could be described as a poor and drunken man's version of cirque du soleil, cheap, underfunded, misdirected.


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