Treasure Trove of Shadows
Aug 25-28 (13:50)
Now this is what its all about, the Fringe. We who live in the misty north of Britain have our fair share of culture through the year, but it is quite piecemeal & nothing too unconventional to our tastes. Then August comes along & a nuclear bomb of immense variety explodes into the city, & one must be rabbit-swift to catch even the minutest portion of the blast. But if one is lucky enough – & also daring enough to step outside the ‘couple of comedians & a play‘ mode of many – then we might just stumble across a show such as a Treasure Trove of Shadows, as I did yesterday.
It all begins in Shaanxi, China, the home of the Terracotta Warriors & also the 2,000 year-old folk tradition of shadow puppetry. Alas, as tour manager Wayne Sam admitted to the Mumble, this tradition is ‘dying,’ with the modern generation preferring to be entertained by the vast panoply of electrical means available in 2017. Enter multi-media artist, Feng Jiangzhou, who has decided to create a futuristic version of shadowplay & elevate it to high theatre. Feng told the Mumble, ‘we deliberately avoided focusing on the history, intent & explanation of shadow puppetry. Our aim was to focus more on theatrical expression placing the play into the criticisms of reality.’
The end result is a bizarre & bold, mish-mash, neoclassical pastiche of Chinese folk stories, played out by a youthful, bright & bubbly cast, while a sophisticated saxophonist accompanies events with some smart sound-art. At all times, behind the proceedings, some simply amazing visual set-pieces are wheeled one-by-one before our eyes. This show is a visual delight, indeed shadowplay for the 21st century, but the story is unfortunately a little difficult to follow – despite the English translation being beamed onto the wall – a literary Wasteland, which even wanders into Macbeth at one point (!?).
However, watching Treasure Trove of Shadows is more of a transcendental experience which shines a time-warping telescope half-way across the world to the villages of China, where Shadow Puppetry once ruled supreme. Then, at the end of the show, the audience is invited onto the stage to witness the art of shadowplay in its purest form, & one hopes that someone in this crowd, or more likely in China, will fall in love with the artform & perpetuate it for posterity.
Reviewer : Damo