Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Red Sorghum at the OzAsia Festival

I was very lucky (thanks to Buy South Australian) to win not one, not two, but FOUR tickets to Red Sorghum, the opening production of the OzAsia Festival which is currently running in Adelaide.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't too hard to collect together 3 extra punters to head along for a quick pre-show dinner (at Mandoo) and then take our excellent seats in the Festival Theatre.  We were slap bang in the centre in row B (so about 6 rows back).

To be honest, I had no idea what we were about to see - which meant I did part with $10 for the program which turned out to be 90% in Chinese (and the English parts were pretty dodgy translations).  If I'd paid for my ticket (they were $60 each, no doubt plus booking fees etc) then almost without a doubt I would have been returning the program.  One of my friends was familiar with the novel on which this production is based - written by Chinese Nobel Laureate Mo Yan.  Red Sorghum was his first novel and has subsequently been turned into both a film and this dance production.

While this production is visually quite stark, the simple but dramatic set works well against a lot of ferocious and passionate action.  The title, Red Sorghum, refers to the grass which is the principal crop of the region in which it is set.  The first half of the production seems almost like the story is focussed on a love triangle but in the second half, things get gritty as the action shifts from a domestic level to the Sino-Japanese war and things end in rather a lot of blood shed.

At interval, we all commented on how passionate the production was ... and by the final curtain we were all feeling somewhat subdued ...

The only thing that could have added to the night out would have been live music, rather than recorded.  As someone who loves opera complete with an orchestra in a pit, recorded music always seems something of a short cut, that there's just something missing in terms of atmosphere.

But that is nit-picking.  This was an excellent production and while perhaps not enjoyable in the sense that everyone, including the protagonists, goes home happy, definitely rewarding, interesting and challenging.

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