Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Elaborate and near spectacular movement

Ma Lau

Gaijin-San , Chapter Arts Centre Cariff , April-29-07
Ma Lau by Gaijin-San There was an even more earthy feeling crouched on the floor in the Chapter theatre than comes from sitting on the rickety seats. From this musky environment we were able to gaze up high into the trees, though the trees here were a very rigidly constructed wide scaffolding ladder. Our ‘monkey’ perched up high, lightly brushed by warm moonlight.

This solo Ricky White performance “is loosely based on Wu’Ch’eng-en’s classic Chinese fable Journey to the West which has inspired films such as Havoc in Heaven and the Kitsch television show Monkey.”

In the original story the man/monkey is on a journey of discovery, a quest for immortality. Our man/monkey is very young and starts with a discovery of his own body and its physicality. He has large, captivating eyes that show surprise as he discovers his long willowy limbs and what he can achieve with them. There is no music, just the music of his breathing and the swish of his arms and legs. He lets his whole body fall, supporting himself with his knees firmly wrapped around the upper bar of the framework that gives both support and focus to his performance

What follows is a physical, maybe somewhat gauche poem of increasingly elaborate and sometimes near spectacular movement. As he gains confidence in his new found strength, he bounds through the branches celebrating his fine agility. All the while the lighting moves him from day into night from dark into light giving us the moving highlights and shading of a fine painting.

Now standing on the floor in a grey twilight, he tightens his T-shirt to his stomach; maybe using all this energy has made him hungry? He kneels beside a stone bowl, his hands go into it. He rubs powdered chalk into his hands, to ensure a firm grip as he returns to his scaffold tree and twists and grips and moves from the bottom to the top in an elegant flashing second.

Back on the floor and we are into martial arts movements. Ricky White is a highly watchable performer, his work seems to me to be an ongoing discovery of his own capability. He joins a strong, growing community of Cardiff based physical performers and it will be very exciting to watch him develop. In this presentation despite the constant dynamic action, there did need to be a little more pace, it did seem a longish 35 minutes. Maybe in the future the monkey will find a partner and some intriguing interactivity could occur between them.

More subtle lighting and projection with some colourful stick bending, some oriental stuttering and writing in the dark with glowing incense sticks brought this fascinating performance to its satisfying if somewhat abrupt end.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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