Soul of Shaolin
Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre
Reviewed – 26th September 2019
“a spectacular show with dazzling displays of martial arts … prepare to be amazed!”
This is a spectacular show with dazzling displays of martial arts. The thirty three strong company thrilled us with their incredible physical feats; at times it felt as though everyone in the audience was holding their breath, only to gasp in amazement at the skill, strength and grace of the performers. The young boys were a particular delight, portraying their life in the temple learning Kung Fu and being naughty and cheeky like kids the world over. There is a lot of humour in the show, in addition to the central story of a mother and her lost child.
The story is set in China in a time of war, and a mother hides her baby behind a rock to keep it safe. She leaves half of a jade amulet with her son, keeping the other half for herself. When she manages to return the child has gone. She has no way of knowing that the tiny boy has been found by a Shaolin monk and taken to the monastery, where he will be cared for and trained in martial arts and spiritual discipline. The action of the show follows the boy, Hui Guang, as he grows from into a man and becomes a Kung Fu master. He is played by three different performers as he ages. There is a lovely relationship between the boy and the monk who found him, showing the tender, caring side of these almost supernaturally powerful warrior monks. One day Hui Guang breaks up a fight in town and loses his half of the jade amulet, which is found by one of the women he has just defended. She is, of course, his mother. She goes to the temple to find him, and he has to decide whether to stay with his fellow monks or go and make a life with her.
But the story is not really the point of the show. The point is the stunning artistry and athleticism of the cast. The acting is stylised, as it often is in ballet, but we really feel for the young man as he decides whether to leave the only home he has known, and for the kindly monk who raised him. The sound is all recorded, and is nicely evocative, blending with the projected backdrops to give the audience a sense of the passage of time and the sights and sounds of temple life. Liu Tongbiao choreographed and directed, weaving martial set pieces into the simple story in an accessible and thrilling way.
It is really worth trying to get a ticket, but it’s not on for long. If you go an see it, prepare to be amazed!
Reviewed by Katre
Photography courtesy Soul of Shaolin
Soul of Shaolin
Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until 6th October
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