Saturday 4th February, 2017, at The Royal Hall, Harrogate.
This variety show from Jin Long Chinese Culture and Performance Productions was full of everything promised: mischievous pandas providing light relief, acrobats, dancers, Chinese Dragons and lots of other snippets of vibrant Chinese culture.
The performers hosted by the show were undoubtedly talented and were nothing if not professional and unphased on the odd yet inevitable occasion when a stunt had to be strategically abandoned or didn’t quite run smoothly. The acrobats were astonishing in their various contortions and the contortion act was likewise jaw-dropping. There’s nothing quite like the spectacle of five people intricately balancing in some sort or precarious formation while their sequinned costumes glitter with the effort. The ‘Changing Faces’ act was a definite highlight and I can’t begin to imagine how they pull it off; an indeterminate number of deftly ever-changing masks throughout a promenade performance certainly borders on a the lines of a magician’s act.
Also featured were a team of ‘feet jugglers’, who were brilliant; creating fantastic spectacle with their various juggled objects and a more prominent juggler progresses to jaw-droppingly juggle various over-sized objects as the audience no doubt held their breath. Other talented acts include martial arts, a stunning puppet-come-ribbon swirling act and some beautiful dance. Above all, my favourite act was the opening performance, in which a pair of glorious, fuzzy and playful Chinese Dragons paraded and danced about the stage – I sat thoroughly enraptured as they encapsulated the tone and purpose of the whole show with one joyous opening number.
Costumes were dazzling and worthy of note – colourful, intricately detailed and perfectly suited to the overall celebratory tone of the performance. Likewise, the stage was simply yet vibrantly set with a large dragon draped over the length of the stage with various brightly coloured traditional decorations dangling from rafters. The recurring pandas also contributed some over-sized stuffed toy hens to remind us all that it is the year of the rooster.
My only gripes are that a few numbers seemed clunky and under-rehearsed in terms of the performer’s cues and the announcer, Albert… I’m all for learning about the background and history of the acts, but the lovely Albert seemed to have a knack for slowing the momentum and interrupting the atmosphere with his interjections after each performance. This likely had much to do with the small audience in a large venue, but his interactions with the audience were too frequent and too awkwardly prolonged by the lack of forth-coming contributors. I think perhaps the history could have been provided in other, more energised ways and Albert’s lengthy introductions could have been cut a little for instances when audience interaction is somewhat forced. A contingency plan to abandon such attempted interactions would also have saved a lot of static wait time.
Nevertheless, this show is a genuine feast for the eyes and ears; the costumes and props/ puppets delight the eyes while each act is accompanied by an array of traditional Chinese music, providing just the right tempo and atmosphere for each performance. The children around me seemed to enjoy it immensely and I only wish that the venue had been filled in order for the enthusiasm and energy on the stage to have been mirrored and returned by the audience; a sparse audience always makes a lack-lustre recipient for high-energy shows, which is always a shame. I refused to let the empty spaces around me impact upon my perception of the energy and atmosphere on the stage though, and I thought this show delivered everything promised with skill and passion. It’s a show well worth seeing if you enjoy spectacle and culture!
Image credits: Jin Long Chinese New Year Extravaganza