Upon entering the unassumingly spacious auditorium of the Rose Theatre in Kingston, we are immediately immersed in an exotic setting. The lighting is dim, with a bluish hue, reminiscent of the dense rainforest shade. The painted greenery at the back of the stage blends with the towering trees and lush foliage threaded around the music stands. The gentle chirping of insects and tropical birds is occasionally interrupted by some distant roars. It is an imposing scene that, during the ten minutes we wait for the show to commence, builds anticipation for the grandeur we’re about to enjoy.
Presented by the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, this award-winning musical breaks with convention by bringing the musicians to the forefront of the action. Set in the heart of the jungle, the unsophisticated plot concerns the fate of a talented bunch of wild animals when two poachers (Freddy Au Yeung and celebrated Hong Kong actor Jordan Cheng) threaten to turn them into Broadway sensations.
The opening piece, ‘WILD Parade’, introduces the animals one by one as they enter the stage – each species drawing from collective imagination and inventive use of the language for their peculiar anthropomorphic features. A sparkling chameleon (Anthony Wong) plays the clarinet, the zebra (Angel Lo) treats us to a show-stopping trumpet solo and the French horn is indeed assigned to the rhino (Joe Kirtley). Dressed in a dazzling outfit, the lion “king of the score” (Apollo Wong) conducts the 18-strong ensemble and stands out with his accomplished bass voice.
Complimented by impeccable make up and body paint, the costumes are mesmerising and, by the creatives’ own admission, strive to represent biodiversity by integrating mankind within the animal kingdom. In this world, we are all performers…and we are all animals.
Stemming from a musician’s lifelong dream, Leanne Nicholls’s labour of love is a showcase of talent that, like the city it comes from, brings together Western taste and ancient artforms from the Far East. One could even say that the self-righteousness of the poachers and the woes of the enslaved animals are reminiscent of Hong Kong’s own political struggles throughout history, pointing a finger towards the sense of superiority that entitles some civilisations to take unilateral possession of whatever takes their fancy.
Throughout its 90-minute running time, this feast of different skills offers a taster menu with plenty of song and dance, but also beatboxing, ballet, body percussion, Chinese drumming, martial arts and a unicycling lemur. It’s fresh, it’s varied and has a striking light-heartedness that is much needed in a society so full of drama.
The only downside is the fleeting visit to London for three performances only, meaning that those who haven’t seen it this time will have to hope for a future run. It was such a great fun to watch that I’m not even ashamed to admit I was giggling louder than the six-year-old who sat next to me. Oh wait – did I mention the hip hop hippos and the cha cha cheetahs??
Story and Lyrics by: Leanne Nicholls
Music by: Nick Harvey
Directed by: Eugene Ma
Choreographed by: Kelvin Mak and Mandy Petty
Produced by: City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong
Wild has completed its current run at Kingston’s Rose Theatre, where it played as part of the FUSE International Festival.