Saturday, 8 October 2011

Rhinoceros in Love, Oct 6, 2011 ***1/2

Rhinoceros in Love ***1/2
Written by Liao Yimei, by National Theatre of China, Melbourne Festival
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, Oct 6- 9, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 6, 2011
Also published: 

Contemporary Chinese play, Rhinoceros in Love written by Liao Yimei in 1998, snubs traditional Chinese theatre and utilises modern, experimental theatrical conventions common in Western theatre.

Performed in Mandarin and directed by Meng Jinghui, China’s leading avant-garde director, it veers from funny, entertaining and visually compelling to frustrating and over-written.

Ma Lu (Zhang Nianhua), a rhinoceros keeper, falls desperately, irrationally in love with his neighbour, Mingming (Qi Xi), who rejects Ma but is obsessed with another man.

Ma Lu’s obsession drives him to distraction and he abducts Mingming, vowing, ‘I won’t leave you and I won’t let you leave me.”

In this episodic structure, the playful, chorus scenes of songs, games and social satire by the energetic, young actors are more successful than the central love tale.

Ma Lu and Mingming’s heightened, poetic dialogue is often cloying, over-wrought and repetitive, their impassioned, adolescent outpourings often irritating, and their characters mean-spirited and dislikeable.

The illuminated, geometric design (Zhang Wu) provides an evocative, abstract environment but this fanciful, youthful tale of unrequited love needs ruthless editing.

 Stars: ***1/2

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