Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Feng Yi Ting (Luminato)

(photo by Julia Lynn)

China Girl
by Shannon Christy

China is on pace to become the world’s largest economy by 2017.  Currently the country is serving the United States a big piece of humble pie on the world stage in the form of Eric Snowden a low level member of a private security firm who showed the planet that the United States has access to all of our information.  There goes the freedom.

The one thing the country does not produce enough of is girls.  Due to the single child policy Chinese families have produced a stunning amount of sons to daughters as male heirs are still the preferred choice.  With this in mind I was delighted by Luminato’s performance of this Chinese literary classic Feng Yi Ting.

The two performers are electrifying. 

The central character is Diao Chan, played by Shen Tiemeiis, a young woman who manages to take down the two most powerful men of the empire and restore the Han Dynasty to its rightful place.  To do this she utilizes her beauty to destroy a family alliance.  After all, females do not do such a shoddy job at protecting their heritage.  It is compelling and remarkable when thinking that the character was created between 161 and 176 BC. 

The two performers are electrifying. Both the music and the libretto by Guo Wenjing are completely foreign to my western ears and I was absolutely taken aback by the piece.  Although I do not have a wide variety of knowledge for Sino methodology it is impossible to miss the incredible talents that both Ms. Tiemeiis and her jealous betrothed, Jiang Qihu, possess.  As Ms. Tiemeiis weaves her story she is sensual and contrived while Mr. Qihu is so stoic that for the first twenty minutes I thought he was a puppet.  However, by the second act Mr. Qihu springs to life to display a voice that is out of this world.  It is riveting and shocks you with its clarity.  

Director, Atom Egoyan has utilized the talents of designer Derek McLane to create a work that capitalizes on technological improvements to provide a multi-media tribute to this Chinese classic.  Of these techniques the lighting of Matt Frey and the video design of Tsang Kin-Wah played a central role.  Mr. Frey’s lighting provides a shadow army from a set of small puppets while Mr. Kin-Wah’s video work blended both the English and Chinese alphabet to suggest to the audience that this story has a universal appeal. 

My big complaint is that the show only lasts for three days.  If you are interested in seeing a woman save the world by using her mind, discovering a major piece of Chinese classic literature, or listening to some of China’s top musical talents provide a live performance then this is your show, and you have until the 22nd to catch it. 

Feng Yi Teng continues to June 22 only

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