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

44 minutes ago
33 Portland Place looks peaceful on the outside, but if these walls could talk... [Photo from Google StreetView]

A swanky 24-bedroom house in the West End that was Britian’s answer to the Playboy mansion is up for sale – because its fraudster owner needs the cash for legal fees.

Read more
07:25
The incident happened between Ann Street and Villas Road on the Glyndon Estate in Plumstead (Pic: Google Street View)

A 19-year-old woman was raped as she made her way home through the Glyndon Estate in Plumstead.

Read more
06:32
A general view of housing near Clapham as London rents now double those in the rest of the UK (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Rents in London are twice as high as those across the rest of the UK for the first time ever, new research has revealed.

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.

Always wanted to create your own beer? Perfect Pint are giving you the chance.

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.

The Week subscription offer

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

Quizzes

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
How much do you know about films in London? (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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

Read more
How much about this great city do you really know? Take our true Londoner quiz and find out (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Do you know your apples from your pears? Take our Cockney quiz and see how much of a Londoner you really are.

Read more