Why The Lion Danced – Guildhall Bury St Edmunds

The very best theatre transcends age barriers. While WhyThe Lion Danced is on paper a children’s show, it proves to be an engaging and entertaining show for all ages.

Young Tom lives in the family Chinese takeaway but struggles to understand some of the customs of his ancestral homeland. As Chinese New Year approaches, the annual customs begin to be played out but leave Tom confused. What is the relevance of the paper decorations being strung up around the backroom of the takeaway?; why is the room filled with tangerines?; what is the significance of the red envelopes?; and why do the Lions dance in Chinese New Year’s parades?

While Yellow Earth’s production may on the surface seem a look at Chinese custom, it also takes a look at the pressures to conform to parental expectations and the conflicts between new and old countries.

Making clever use of the takeaway kitchen equipment Why The Lion Danced is a cacophony of music, percussion and visuals to create an evocative mix of both the daily life and the mythical.

Carey English’s script combines enough material to keep younger members of the audience enthralled while also managing to inform and educate older audiences. To keep such a wide age range engaged is a challenge for any company but it’s a challenge this company rise to.

Oliver Biles is impressive as young Tom who is only just coming to terms with his heritage, guided by Veronica Needa’s Nana. This part narrator, part protagonist role is key to the piece and is an assured performance by a young actor. Zenghui Qiu’s aunt provides an evocative musical backdrop to the piece, while Jamie Zubairi’s Dad provides the crucial link between old and new.

Kumiko Mendl’s direction is fast-paced and fluid, keeping audience attention throughout. Clever use of staging, props, shadow puppets and even a full size dancing Chinese lion provide a fascinating insight into Chinese tradition and the troubles facing second and third generation youth into meeting the expectation of not one but two cultures.

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