Underbelly, Cowgate – Big Belly
In Chinese culture the term ‘Jianghu’ is used to describe the fictional stories in which martial arts, clan feuds and unlikely romance blend either in the present or in an ancient past (think kung fu action films). It literally translates as “rivers and lakes” as a reference to its often rural surroundings.
Adhering to this genre, in Fall and Flow a very large rope is used to shape a big circle on the bare stage. Inside and around it five short vignettes come to life with highly skilled dance, kung fu and live music produced with traditional instruments. At times, the lone musician is joined by the rest of the cast in a chant, enhancing the evocative atmosphere of this captivating performance.
Highly trained artists and thoroughly devised choreographies mean that even the smallest movement around the stage has been taken into careful consideration. No matter if centre stage or away from the main scene, the five-strong ensemble seems to be following well-rehearsed directorial instructions. Different languages of the body are weaved in fluent transitions on an impressive display of balance and core strength.
In these cautionary tales, courage is rewarded and crooks get defeated, with an underlying comedy pursuit that translates into high jinks. An enraged Godfather who can’t unsheathe his new sword, warriors or noblemen fighting against thieves, unscrupulous men and strong family connections are all depicted as the anecdotes unfold. The clash of classes between the rich and righteous versus the poor and corrupt is uncomfortably well-defined and can only be forgiven because of its belonging to a different day and age.
Other than in the songs, no words are spoken. A lack of significant costume changes and the limited presence of props require the production to be watched with an open mind. Fortunately, a handout distributed before the performance contains a brief outline of each tale, providing valuable guidance to interpret the action. The charming ingenuity of ancient storytelling make the show equally appealing to adults and children alike, as confirmed by the mixed demographic. Simple, but by no means simplistic, this production celebrates one of the most traditional narrative styles of the Far East, proving this can be easily enjoyed by a multitude of audiences around the world.
Created and Directed by: Ata WONG Chun Tat
Written by: Louis Miha
Produced by: LEI Yuen Hung
Fall and Flow played as part of EdFringe 2023.