China Goes Pop! (3 stars)

This article is from 2017

China Goes Pop!

Breezy fun that's more acrobatics than dance

What curious and sometimes clunky circus-based entertainment this is, but it definitely does entertain. The cast is composed of young members of the Shandong Acrobatic Troupe. They're a likeable bunch but indisputably better at athletics than dancing or acting. The context for showing off their many and various physical skills is extremely loose, and mainly stereotypical boy-meets-girl romance. Almost every such encounter and, indeed, most of the action generally is accompanied by candy-sweet video projections and pop songs.

None of this is painful, just poorly structured. Indeed, China Goes Pop is pretty consistently fun starting with a running-leaps-through-hoops routine for the males as their female counterparts dance about decoratively. The jumping rope segment that immediately follows is an early highlight; everybody gets a chance to shine. This balances a later, sloppy would-be comic first-date scene.

I enjoyed a mildly op art dance sequence, featuring sharply opened and closed hand fans and cued to 'Beat It'. There's also a seriously weird vogue dance that plays like a cross between a Venetian ball and a fashion show. The women prove themselves ace at diabolo tossing, while the lone female balancing act is elegance personified in a silver onesie.

Other bits – some pogo sticking, for instance, or an equally dull segment involving free-standing door frames – fall flat. And the less said about audience participation on the day I attended the better. Spoiler alert: it all ends in matrimony, surprise surprise.

Assembly Hall, until 27 Aug (not 16, 23), 4.20pm, £13–£15 (£11–£13).

China Goes Pop!

  • 3 stars

Eye-popping, entertaining show direct from China, starring brilliant world-class acrobats, including Cirque du Soleil alumni.