Hand Made in China: Moons, Migration and Messages

On the day that the Edinburgh weather turned from sunshine and showers to rough, autumnal wind, an ambitious project arrived at Summerhall. Hand-Made In China was more of a travelling exhibition than a show; a meeting and sharing of cultures and ideas. While most Fringe performers are desperate for an audience, this intimate show can only seat two in the performing-space: a Rickshaw. Each audience-member is greeted personally and offered some tea (the china cups trembling in the wind) then invited to choose a prop that will be the basis of the story to be told.

An unusual and curious idea, this is a meeting of cultures that typifies the spirit of the Fringe.

The motorised Rickshaw is decked out as a little house on the back, a daring makeup of cloth and sheet plastic that flaps in the wind. Inside, the seats are made of denim, and the audience (maximum, two) sits opposite the performer who tells a short story in Mandarin, while from behind (sat in the driver’s cabin) we hear a simultaneous translation. The stories have a folky style, and are told directly and genuinely so that, despite the foreign tongue, it is an engaging and intimate experience. One of the stories was told in the form of a conversation between two workers in a clothing factory, and highlighted an important theme in this project.

Outside the Rickshaw, there is an opportunity to see short films, and meet the people behind this project that aims to share not only stories but perceptions of life for ordinary people in China. Certainly the factory workers had a very strange perception of life in the West, but we too have a similarly blinkered understanding of their lives. And so, the Hua Dan project uses this form of storytelling and grassroots theatre to work with migrant women, children and families in Beijing and Sichuan. They are here thanks to support from the Confucius Institute for Scotland, in collaboration with Scottish companies, the Tinderbox Project and Red Field.

An unusual and curious idea, this is a meeting of cultures that typifies the spirit of the Fringe. As long as the weather remains kind, it’s well worth a visit.

Reviews by J. A. Sutherland

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The Blurb

It is night of the Moon Festival, a time of transformation, reunion, dreaming and secret messages. Come, listen and share in a show of mythical and modern migration tales, told with music, tea, mooncakes and a rickshaw - all handmade in China. By Hua Dan's Dumpling Dreams Theatre and Migration Project, in collaboration with Tinderbox Project, Confucius Institute and Beijing Community Rickshaw Project. Hua Dan is a pioneering Chinese NGO using grassroots theatre to work with migrant women, workers and families in Beijing and rural Sichuan. Performed in English and Mandarin. www.hua-dan.org