Poet's tale fails to sizzle onstage

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 December, 2011, 12:00am


The Legend and the Hero
City Contemporary Dance Company
Kwai Tsing Theatre

City Contemporary Dance Company's The Legend and the Hero, based on the tragic poet who inspired the Dragon Boat Festival, fires up the stage with great costumes and lighting but flounders in its message.

The story of Qu Yuan (c 340-278BC), one of China's greatest poets who was disgraced and exiled for speaking out against corruption in the ancient Chu state, raises relevant questions about artistic freedom, injustice, corruption and patriotism.

Indeed, when the country was invaded, Qu drowned himself in protest - an act commemorated in the annual festival.

The dance production's subtitle, A Reflection on Artists, Patriots, Martyrs and Gods, suggests these themes would be explored. But audiences are left disappointed.

The piece has a promising start, with Qu, played by co-choreographer Dominic Wong, sticking out like a sore thumb amid a sea of robotic figures - the only one who dares to be different. As the show progresses, topics like freedom, sacrifice and integrity evaporate, leaving a series of disjointed scenes.

Too many cooks can spoil the broth and, while there are good moments, the choreography by lead player Wong, director Willy Tsao and co-choreographer Bruce Wong is a patchwork which never achieves a coherent style.

Samson Young's mind-numbing electronic score (imagine listening to a video game soundtrack for 90 minutes) does not help.

Only at the very end does the work return to the legend and the hero it purports to celebrate. The final moments are poignant, and Dominic Wong's performance gives frustrating glimpses of what could have been a powerful interpretation if the story had been executed better.

On the plus side, Goh Boon An's lighting is stunning and Yuri Ng's eclectic costumes offer plenty of entertainment value. Only Ng could send people onstage dressed as pieces of furniture.

To paraphrase the old saying: if it looks like a turkey, gobbles like a turkey and is served up with stuffing and Brussels sprouts, there is no escaping the fact that it is a turkey.

And while this may be the perfect season to do so, an overdressed turkey served up by a theatre company of CCDC's stature is not exactly what the audience wants for Christmas.