PHYSICAL THEATRE – The Solitary Journey of Guan Yu


[star rating =3/5]

RETELLING the legend of the Chinese hero Guan Yu, this production was packed with power, ferocity and some interesting artistic features.

It’s a shame the storytelling wasn’t quite up to the same standard.

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It’s hard to deny that there were limits. With only Thong Yoong How (Percussionist) and Lee Swee Seng (Guan Yu) to do the show, there obviously had to be compromises.

But that didn’t change the fact that the show felt more like a one-man circus rather than a tale of an epic hero. The situation was somewhat remedied with the aid of a programme in the audience’s seats, which helped give viewers an idea of what was going on in each of the scenes.

Even so, keeping up and understanding what was going on was a challenge.

The two performers, Yoong How and Swee Seng, both executed their performance with the upmost professionalism. The two men looked as fierce and focused as two hardened warriors on the verge of another battle, above anything and everything that was going on in the outside world.

Yoong How delivered blow after mighty blow to his drum without even breaking a sweat, while Swee Seng slashed his blade with such powerful precision, it was as if he truly was Guan Yu, slashing down his enemies and anyone else who stood in his way.

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The show was interrupted a couple of times by a monolog, spoken entirely in Chinese. A translation was provided in the programmes on the audience’s seats, but it was a bit dark to read it during the performance.

Furthermore some parts of the monolog felt like propaganda which aided in colouring the performance.

Its talk of being loyal and righteous when serving those in power and the temptation of humans to have power of their own was more than a little unsettling, disturbing even.

It gave the performance a political edge that cut through the entertaining parts and conveyed one very simple message: people who aren’t in power should not crave it.