Competition: Win tickets to new Chinese State Circus show
Breath-taking displays of power, poise and agility; the Chinese State Circus must be in town. Entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE finds out why their new show will be like nothing you’ve seen before.
YIN Yang, the interaction of two energies in a dynamic system of balance. It’s a fitting name for The Chinese State Circus’ latest show.
A UK premiere, the very best acrobats China has to offer will have you on the edge of your seats as they defy gravity in a spectacular showcase of power, poise and agility.
Packed full of action, artistic director and co-producer Phillip Gandey promises the show is very different to the circus’ previous visits.
“I went to China and found a new troupe so it’s their first appearance here. The last six years it [the show] has had a little bit of a story. This time we’ve turned it completely on its head and gone for absolutely no spoken word at all.
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“We’ve gone back to straight circus, one act after another; but we have included some fabulous Chinese musicians this time playing traditional Chinese instruments.”
The change was a direct response to comments the company, and a lot of circuses, were getting from critics and the public. The show was fantastic, but they didn’t want the narrative. They have musicals and plays for that.
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“When we first started introducing narrative it was quite new; but I think people want a return to pure, undiluted, quality circus from start to finish.
“This production does that, going back to where it all started. It doesn’t need the theatrics which circuses in the past few years have built around themselves,” says Phillip.
There are six or seven individual acts in each half who will be accompanied by the all-girl musical group.
China has some 200 acrobatic troupes, the country’s version of circus.
Phillip deals with the top ten or 12 troupes; travelling different cities, looking at recommended acts.
Rehearsals start a few months after artists are picked, they took place in Shanghai this time around, and performers spend some time fine-tuning the show when they arrive in the UK.
The current tour features the first UK appearance of the Shaolin Warrior known only as The One, sourced specifically by Phillip.
There’s also the traditional, daring double poles act where acrobats leap and somersault on a very high goal post for want of a better word type apparatus.
New this year is the oriental swan, where a performer does ballet points and contortion on the head and arms of another and foot juggling which closes the show.
“Nine girls juggle drums and throw them to each other just using their feet, it’s sensational,” says Phillip.
“Then we have the flying silks where a man and a woman perform suspended [in the air] and fly around with no safety net, no safety harness.”
Other acts include the ancient Chinese art of hoop diving where acrobats run, dive and somersault through a mounting number of hoops just 14 inches in diameter; ending with one performer somersaulting through the top hoop about ten feet from the floor.
Then there’s the group bicycling routine, with artists somersaulting from one bicycle to another until around 12 of them end up on the same one.
The company has given the ancient lion dance act - traditionally featured in weddings and festivals and seen as a good luck dance - a twist involving multiple performers manipulating carpets and lion leaping.
Twenty performers will take part in a breath-taking skipping act and the Monkey King, a Chinese folklore character, will bring a little bit of light-heartedness to the show by interacting with the audience.
“We first bought the Chinese State Circus to the UK in 1992, thinking it would have a life expectancy of three or four years. Here we are, some 20 years on and it’s still touring. I think that says a lot for the standard of the show,” says Phillip.
“That, coupled with a very reasonable ticket price - which we think we’ve got as low as we possibly could - means you’re going to have a top quality night out.
Yin Yang by the Chinese State Circus comes to Ipswich’s Regent Theatre on January 21-22.
We have two family tickets worth �150 to give away. To win one - for two adults and two children or one adult and three children - tell just us the name of the Shaolin Warrior featured in the show. E-mail your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by 9am, Thursday, January 19.