Hong Kong Dance's Storm Clouds has stunning effects but muddled plot

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 December, 2014, 5:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 December, 2014, 5:48pm

Storm Clouds

Hong Kong Dance Company

Cultural Centre Grand Theatre

Reviewed: December 12

The publicity for this production, based on Ma Wing-shing's iconic martial arts comic The Storm Rider, held the promise of a thrilling show.

Sadly, while it is visually striking and has good moments, this is one of those cases in which the trailer is better than the movie.

Ma himself was responsible for art direction, and his universe is brilliantly evoked through exceptional use of lighting (Yeung Tsz-yan) and digital images (John Wong). Some of the stunning effects make for the most successful aspect of the production.

Director/choreographer Yang Yuntao has aimed for an impressionistic adaptation rather than a detailed narrative.

The concept is fine, but the execution is not so much impressionistic as incoherent. Character development is limited, and the plot is so unclear that there is little dramatic or emotional impact.

The story revolves around Bo Ging-wan (Cloud) and Lip Fung (Wind), who are adopted as children by the power hungry Hung Ba and grow up to be heroic warriors. After being divided by rivalry for the love of their foster sister, Hao Chi, who is torn between them, the brothers at last reunite to defeat Hung Ba.

The strongest scene is a passionate sexual encounter between Cloud and Hao Chi that takes place on the eve of her wedding to Wind, seen innocently preparing for his nuptials in the background while his bride abandons herself to his brother. The first appearance of the two heroes, in a powerful slow-motion duet, works well but their final duel is an anticlimax.

In fact, there is a surprising lack of the spectacular male dancing that was a highlight of previous martial arts-related productions such as Yang's own The Legend of Mulan or Leung Kwok-shing's trilogy based on Louis Cha's novels.

The group work is unimaginative, with much aimless running across the stage (always a sign that the choreographer has run out of ideas).

A large pool of water at the front of the stage generates much splashing by battling warriors and grappling lovers, but adds little to the proceedings other than giving the audience in the front rows a thorough soaking.

There is a stand-out performance from Sun Gongwei as Cloud, showing extraordinary fluidity, control and elevation, and good work from Yuan Shenglun as Wind and Pan Lingjuan as Hao Chi.

Natasha Rogai