Pros: Strong dancing and a very interesting narrative.
Cons: The story is unclear and not easy to understand just through the dancers.
Lunar Shadows is an interesting and thought-provoking piece from dance artist Quang Kien Van. It brings to life a narrative about a psychiatric patient (Patient 319) and his mysterious journey from 1970s Vietnam in which he and his mother escaped on a wooden boat. We follow his rescue by the British and his relocation to Peckham, as well as his time in a mental institution where he undergoes dance therapy.
It’s intriguing and interesting at every turn and verges heavily on the entertainingly bizarre. There are four dancers in the piece – choreographer and creator Quang Kien Van, and a trio of energetic dancers: Laura Lorenzi, Daniel Phung and Rachele Rapisardi, who do well to bring the narrative to life.
The trio of dancers are used to show the advancement of the narrative in this piece through both their movements and their attire. Whilst Quang Kien Van remains in all black, the dancers adapt their clothes for the location in that point in the story. When they are in the period of the story where the patient is attempting to leave Vietnam via crowded wooden boat, the dancers are clothed in rough, shapeless beige garments. Their movements are fraught with fear and uncertainty and they do well to convey turmoil.
The portion set in the West arrives with an energetic playfulness, although it soon becomes clear that this is a false facade. The dancers are dressed in hyper-colourful, gaudy, and visibly synthetic clothes and wigs. There is a spoken portion, in which the actors speak over a pre-recorded track to express themes of confused identity. This section is about the feeling of not quite fitting in and the difficulties that come from being a product of two countries, two worlds even and the inability to fit into both. As a dual national who now fits completely into neither nationality myself, this resonated strongly with me.
From then, portions of the dance are more fluid, almost fun and there’s a frenetic nature to some of it. Laura Lorenzi is lovely to watch here; her dancing is lively and cheerful despite the turmoil around her.
There’s lots of symbolism written into this piece. Even in the more uplifting sections, you are always aware of the underlying sense of unease and discomfort. There’s a sense of unexpressed frustration, building to madness in the movements of the dancers. This brings a very intense and eerie, yet satisfying release of emotions.
Quang Kien Van is the driving force in this piece. He remains clad in black, both observing and dancing his way through the piece. His early dance solo is thoughtful, practised and determined. He uses his body wonderfully to express an idea of conformity, adjusting to try to fit into what he thinks he should be.
Lunar Shadows is a strange narrative, but it works in this performance. It requires focus to keep up with and I fear I might be lost without the accompanying handout of story summary; but this is a good show, giving lots for thought. Unique, different, and at times downright eerie, Lunar Shadows is absolutely worth the journey.
Choreographer: Quang Kien Van
Producer: Step Out Arts
Box Office: 020 8293 9741
Booking Link: http://greenwichdance.org.uk/watch/event/quang_kien_van_lunar_shadows/
Booking Until: This show has now completed its run.