Theatre review: Wild Swans at the Young Vic

11:15 23 April 2012

Wild Swans at the Young Vic. Photo by Chris Nash

Wild Swans at the Young Vic. Photo by Chris Nash

Archant

Imaginative staging cannot overcome an over abridged production of Wild Swans at the Young Vic

The fall of imperial China and the rise and tyrannous fall of the new red dawn of communism are depicted in an astonishingly short hour and 15 minutes in the Young Vic’s production of Jung Chang’s memoir Wild Swans.

A family history spanning a century is whittled down to a snapshot allegory of man’s inability to change the corrupt cycle of history.

Our heroine Wild Swan (Ka-Ling Cheung) is the heart of the revolution while her husband Shou-Yu (Orion Lee) is its intellectual voice.

We follow the couple as, strong as an ox, they experience the redemptive power of physical labour during the communist revolution and later the horror of the Great Leap Forward, as thousands of tonnes of grain feed Mao’s ambitions while the peasants of China starve.

It’s a stark sorry story.

Mao sacrifices the one commodity China has – people - to produce the grain traded with Russia for the atomic bomb.

China is great, but the great ideals of communism are forever corrupted and one man, unable to compromise his ideals, brings about the ruin of his family.

The brevity of staging gives the message clarity at the cost of complexity, not helped by the actors Americanised Chinese accents, unnecessary Disney to the British ear.

We never truly connect with the family, so their story has little emotion.

But the staging is unusual, and set changes lasting minutes see the cast literally build the backdrops, sweeping away a paddy field of soil or mopping water onto magic white boards to reveal murals beneath - their own hard work for the cause.

* Showing at the Young Vic in The Cut, SE1, until May 13.

Latest Stories

Fusilier Lee Rigbywas killed whilst off duty near Woolwich Barracks by Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo in May 2013  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The father of Drummer Lee Rigby, the soldier who was brutally murdered in Woolwich last year, has said it is ‘disgusting’ that his son’s killers received £200,000 from the state to pay for their legal costs.

Read more
10:48
Mayor Lutfur Rahman faces a full inquiry into May's election in Tower Hamlets (Picture: Tower Hamlets Council)

A full inquiry into the controversial Tower Hamlets election which saw Lutfur Rahman crowned will go ahead after the Mayor’s legal challenge was thrown out.

Read more
Ilford Jaloos 2014

A UKIP councillor has been accused of “scaring people with made-up information” after he branded an Islamic procession in Ilford “a call to war”.

Read more

Top Stories

Promotions

Renault-Zoe

The Renault ZOE follows on from the introduction of the electric Fluence ZE and Twizy, but unlike the former, the Zoe was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

When no simple way to find Real Ale was at hand, 4 Ale enthusiasts got together to allow anyone with a smart phone to find Real Ale no matter where they happened to be, this was the birth of the Perfect Pint app.

London24 have partnered up with The Week magazine to offer you a complimentary issue – delivered free to your door.

Quizzes

Test your London musical knowledge with our album quiz (Images via Getty)

Does your music knowledge stretch from The Rolling Stones to Rudimental, Spandau Ballet to Siouxsie and the Banshees? If so then test it out with our London bands quiz:

Read more
How much do you really know about QPR legends like Les Ferdinand? Picture: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

Test your knowledge of QPR’s greatest players with our fantastic legends quiz.

Read more
Quiz-1

Do you know your Lock Stock from your Long Good Friday, Sliding Doors from Shakespeare in Love?

Read more