Lu-ting the Merman
- Gareth K Vile
- 19 August 2018
Stunning evocation of oppressed innocence
Telling the mythical story of a merman tribe, Theatre Horizon's charming yet emotive production is an elegant evocation of the nature of colonial oppression. The ensemble cast – sometimes hidden by fish-heads, and dressed in costumes cobbled together from household items – use physical theatre and story-telling to expose the way that innocence itself becomes the victim of political power-games and the human need for boundaries and order.
Accompanied by live music, Lu-ting has a simple lineal narrative that covers hundreds of years but never feels rushed or forced: the merman tribe experience the arrival of the humans and the rise of the Chinese kingdoms as a bitter wrench from their natural, joyful existence. The company's treatment of the audience, from the welcome at the start to the farewell at the end, speaks of a modest gentility that sustains the production even in its most violent moments.
Umbrellas become symbols of agriculture, warfare and resistance: the presentation of a delicious steamed fish becomes a recognition of complicity in oppression. Despite the seriousness of the theme, which evokes a 2014 pro-democracy movement in its celebration of resistance and the right to dignity, Lu-ting is by turns playful and polite, emotional gruelling and compassionate.
Paradise in Augustines, until 26 Aug (not 19), 3.20pm, £10 (£8)