Why The Lion Danced at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon reviewed

Why The Lion Danced at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon reviewed

Why The Lion Danced at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon reviewed - Credit: Alastair Muir

Why The Lion Danced Polka Theatre, February 20 to March 2, 2013 By Emma Ward

Chinese New Year is probably one of the most spectacular festivals you can get - and a perfect subject for a chilly February half term week. Both educational and visually stimulating, Yellow Theatre’s inventive children’s production, Why The Lion Danced, tells the ancient Chinese legend of a terrible monster who terrorises a village before being fought off by a brave lion.

At the same time, the thought-provoking piece, directed by Kumiko Mendi and written by Carey English, addresses the dynamics of a modern Chinese family and a father’s struggle to accept his son’s growing capabilities and maturity.

We in the audience learn the old legend alongside Tom, played by a delightfully ingenuous Oliver Biles. Tom is the inquisitive young boy whose family runs a Chinese takeaway restaurant and we join him on the busiest night of the year: Chinese New Year’s Eve.

As the rush disperses, Tom’s father, portrayed with equal doses of authority and fun by Jamie Zubairi, takes off his apron and joins the family for a reneactment of the legend. He is joined by the charismatic Nana (Tina Chiang) who proves to be quite the expert at Kung Fu. Audience participation is encouraged throughout, with shouting and stamping of feet to scare the monster away - keeping even the youngest children engaged until the very end.

The four cast members took turns to play the various animals and village members, with some clever puppetry, use of kitchen props and carefully designed movements, courtesy of choreographer, Tom Wu. Live music added to the energetic retelling, led by Tom’s auntie (Zenghui Qiu), whose talents on the kitchen pots and pans more than matched her skills on the authentic Chinese instruments.

The show’s highlight is the appearance of a full-scale Chinese lion, manned by Tom and his father, which dances jubilantly to celebrate the defeating of the monster - and the culmination of this lively production. Great fun all round.

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Why the Lion Danced is aimed at 5 to 11 year olds. Tickets cost £12 (concessions £8) and can be booked via Polka Theatre’s Box Office on 020 8543 4888.