The show, from the team behind the acclaimed Shaolin Warriors, was created and directed by Erick Villeneueve – director of Cirque du Soleil – and the choreography of the show is truly commendable.
The outrageously talented martial arts were offered up by fast-moving, high-jumping experts who showed off everything from impeccable weaponry skills and balancing acts to amazingly timed flag and ribbon work which left the audience on the edge of their seats.
Accompanying these expertise were Chinese drummer women – also profoundly skilled in their art – who brought a real sense of the traditional culture to the Scottish audience that will have been very rarely seen before.
Throughout the performances, whether men or women, ribbon or drum work, martial arts or weaponry, the choreography was impeccably timed and irresistibly flowing. The traditional Wushu techniques, acrobatics, and drumming really brought the traditional out to the Scottish crowd, and while at times it proved a little confusing, much work must have gone in to the perfection of the routines, a factor which did much to improve the standard of the show.
Certainly, one of the biggest shocks of the evening was at the end of the show when the cast of the production took their bow and a quick headcount showed there were only 15 men and eight women involved in the entertainment.
The martial art work and acrobats had moved so quickly that at times it seemed like there were double that number on stage. It felt we were watching the kind of guys who control in kung-fu video games and think ‘it’d be cool if there was actually someone who could do all this’.
The costumes during all of this was wonderful too – the Chi master sporting a traditional red outfit while the rest of the cast switched between signature white and more warrior based costumes.
It was a shame that the props weren’t quite up to task at times though. While the Shinais and bamboo shafts were more than up to scratch, the spearheads and swords looked flimsy, wobbling as their holder performed.
This took away from the insanely badass martial-arts being performed – which were effectively 15 Chinese guys showing off the seemingly endless mannerisms in which they could beat the shit out of me if they really wanted. It was really quite impressive, it’s just unfortunate the props didn’t match the talents of the cast.
The original score was a joy to behold however, with wonderful violin driving a traditional Chinese soundtrack. During some of the multi-media work, which projected large concept scenery on to the big screen and saw an individual perform around it, the live showing became somewhat more sceptical and illegitimate, but during these segments the music was at its best – saving a section that was otherwise not quite up to the high standards of the rest of the show.
Elsewhere, the comedy value on offer from a makeshift postman ties in crowd participation with martial arts and played on stereotypes established in the movies to provide an enjoyable break from the fast-pace of the rest of the show.
Verdict: There wasn’t much storyline, but that didn’t take away from what was a wonderful showcase of Chinese culture in the end. Occasionally it was a little confusing, and as mentioned the props could have been improved, but ultimately it was a unique production which captured the traditional Chinese experience well for the Edinburgh crowd.