Reviewed by Jan Dixon
I attended the Kings Theatre in Portsmouth on 1st April 2018 with my 9-year-old granddaughter Ellie, to see a performance of The Embroidery Girl by the China Jiangsu Wuxi Song and Dance Troupe. The production is about a tragic love story between Xiu Niang and Ming Xuan, set in the Qing dynasty.
One of the main characters, Xiu Niang (Zhang Yushu), enchanted the audience with her delicate dancing and acrobatic prowess. She was a joy to watch, mesmerising in her performance as an embroideress who was a concubine for Master Hau Jue (Qing Shuang) but fell in love with Ming Xuan (Xu Peng), a young painter. These male leads portrayed their respective roles in an amazing display of emotional and eloquent dance moves, informing the audience of the intricate storyline. The wife of Master Hau Jue, Mrs Hue Jue (Mi Xia), showed her jealously through expressive dance that also showcased her stunning balletic routines.
There were many supporting dancers, both male and female, who dazzled in an array of beautifully made costumes. Their dancing was superb; demonstrating such diversity skills of ballet and acrobatic dances. Use of masks and ribbons were also used to great effect in these routines. The backdrop was spectacularly designed to portray the different scenes for each of the five acts.
This stunning production was choreographed by internationally-renowned Zhao Ming, using a blend of Chinese folk, ballet, classical and contemporary dance. The music was by Zou Hang, who had written music for the pianist Lang Lang to play at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The music was beautiful and originally composed for the performance. There was a mixture of romantic, delicate arias and crashing crescendos, in keeping with the storyline.
Liu Li, the Managing Director, kindly took the time during the interval to explain to myself and Ellie that the performance depicted a new image of women who opposed the feudal ethics to pursue their liberty. This was depicted through the interaction of embroidery and life in the performance.
This was my first experience of professional Chinese Dance Theatre; I would most definitely attend another performance by this company. I would highly recommend The Embroidery Girl to anyone who wishes to expand their cultural performance experience. Ellie and I certainly benefitted from this show. A wonderful blend of Chinese and Western interpretation. Thoroughly deserves a 5-star rating.
The Kings Theatre Southsea was designed by the architect Frank Marcham and opened in 1907. It is operated by the Kings Theatre Trust and was designated a Grade II listed building in 1976. The Kings Theatre is less than 5 miles from the M27 and A27, with several routes through Portsmouth available. It is a 20-minute walk from both the local train stations of Fratton and Portsmouth & Southsea. There is limited parking nearby or in Waitrose carpark (restrictions apply).
For more information and tour dates visit embroiderygirl.co.uk.
For other shows at the Kings Theatre in Portsmouth visit kingsportsmouth.co.uk or call the box office on 023 9282 8282.
The Kings Theatre, Albert Road, Southsea, Portsmouth, Hants, PO5 2QJ | 023 9282 8282