Posted March 2017
Snow in Midsummer as a contemporary reimagining of Guan Hanqing’s ancient Chinese classic drama, The Injustice to Dou E That Moved Heaven and Earth - written during the 13th century Yuan Dynasty. It is the first fruit of the RSC’s ongoing Chinese classics translation project — which aims to introduce Western audiences to these unknown literary treasures. Happily — after the fallout from the ‘yellowface’ controversies that have seen white actors playing Chinese characters — the cast here have East Asian origins.
So all in all an amiable project, but surely just an amuse-bouche before we get to the meaty main course of the season? Not so!
The story has a soap opera-like number of plot drivers: love, rape, corruption, unwanted pregnancies, siblings who don’t know they’re siblings, a son who doesn’t know who his real mother is, murder, execution, injustice and vengeful ghosts. As the plot twists and turns, and time leaps forwards and backs, one occasionally feels giddy and lost, although not necessarily unpleasantly so. Designer Lily Arnold’s urbanized, neon-lit set and Ruth Chan’s frenetic electro score wonderfully conjure the sense of a town in claustrophobic, deathly meltdown… The chaos is controlled, however, and as the play heads towards its clever and moving denouement all becomes bitingly clear.
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