Entertainment Hive 2017

Qingdao Song & Dance Theatre presents Red Sorghum

OzAsia Festival, Adelaide Festival Theatre, Wednesday, September 3

Review by Honey B

It's easy to see why Chinese audiences have fallen in love with Qingdao Song & Dance Theatre's dance drama Red Sorghum after last night's mesmerising opening night performance. The breathtaking piece which was adapted from Nobel Prize-winning author Mo Yan’s novel was the perfect blend of yin and yang, light and dark, love and war. The story follows young woman, Jiu’er, who is sent to marry an old lecherous man who owns a distillery, but she has fallen in love with a younger man. One night her husband mysteriously dies and Jiu’er suffers the hostile accusations of the villagers but she focuses on running the distillery with her uncle and finally her lover returns to her and life is idyllic when they have a little boy. But the Japanese invasion of 1939 sees the tranquility of village life in the sorghum fields disrupted forever. The show starts so gently with the lyrical tones of a traditional Chinese flute to capture the feel of the sorghum fields and the Moshui River. Cheng Yuan's score is both traditional and contemporary and it is as integral as any dancer to the piece as it drives the drama to the climatic conclusion. The dance ensemble moved as one and were athletic and strong and it was hard to take your eyes off of them as they floated across the floor as happy villagers or as they worked in the sorghum fields or distillery. Meng Ning (Jiu'er) was particularly riveting and poetic and she carried much of the piece. She has a wonderful character arc from scared young bride to stoic woman and the boss of a factory to a contented wife and mother. Through this journey her lithe body and graceful body moves with emotion and strong will - especially in her closing scenes as she stands up against the inhumanities of war. This was an amazing show with such power and beauty and it built up to such an inevitable crescendo that had the audience holding their breath and it felt like my heartbeat kept in time with the dancers and their death march. I am not afraid to say a few tears were shed at the end of this performance and for a production to bring out such emotion is just one reason why Red Sorghum won this year’s Wenhua Prize, China’s Ministry of Culture’s highest award for professional arts. This show deserves every piece of success it receives and unfortunately Qingdao Song & Dance Theatre's Red Sorghum was a one night only performance at the OzAsia Festival. But people can see the film adaptation of Mo Yan's Red Sorghum at the Mercury Cinema on September 14 as part of OzAsia on Screen.
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