Chinese Women’s Whispers

Chinese Women's Whispers provides an oasis of calm for weary festival goers. Sharing autobiographical tales from their different provinces in China, the four actors offer an hour's respite from the relentless hustle and bustle of the Edinburgh Fringe.

This was the least technically impressive show I've seen at the Fringe so far but it was no worse for it

Many of the stories shared offer a wonderful insight into Chinese culture. Learning of the Nüshu script - a form of Chinese writing used exclusively by women - is fascinating, alongside the discovery of the different expectations put upon young Chinese women. One female actor shares the news of her father's sadness at the fact she hadn’t married by the age of eighteen. Similarly, a song performed by the sole male actor speaks of a Chinese girl growing into adulthood: "At sixteen, the matchmaker comes," he croons, "at eighteen, her parents arrange the dowry."

A real strength of the show is how thoroughly likeable the four actors are. They remain positive, respectful and sincere throughout. There’s never any hint of wryness or cynicism, qualities British performers are prone to falling back on. In the moments where they interact with the audience, their wonderful sincerity shines and it’s impossible not to warm to them.

Additionally, I appreciated the pared back nature of the production. This was the least technically impressive show I've seen at the Fringe so far but it was no worse for it. In one especially memorable point, the actors asked us to close our eyes. They then went about creating a soundscape, seeking to conjure up the image of a baby born in a pig sty (incidentally this happened to the mother of one of the cast members). It was surprisingly effective and reminded me how one needn’t rely on fancy technology in order to create powerful theatrical moments.

The show might have been even more impressive had it been more polished though. For instance, the male actor sang beautifully but twice forgot the lyrics to his song. This shouldn't really occur by the fourth performance of a run. This criticism aside, however, I'd encourage anyone to attend. If you’re on the lookout for an interesting, tranquil and unique experience - you’re in for a treat.  

Reviews by Alan Stewart

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Presenting contemporary reflections on the role of women in today’s society. The story of three generations of Chinese women combines with the story of Nüshu – Chinese women’s secret writing – to offer contemporary perspectives on a woman’s role in society. The Hua-Dan women consider their roles as wives, daughters, mothers and modern women in China today, while stories, poems, songs and dance from the Hunan Jiangyong Centre for Nüshu further explore the eternality of women’s experiences across the generations. From Hua-Dan: Fringe First winners 2014 and Hunan Jiangyong Centre for Nüshu.

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