Hymn to Disappearance

If you’ve been flyered by Theatre Santuoui, you may have been bewitched by the intricate game that unfolds before your eyes in their ingenious paper creation. In this instance, judging a show by its cover (or rather flyer) really works; their superb publicity really does reflect the superb contents of their show, which is similarly surprising and slick.

Theatre SanTuoQi are a company to be reckoned with - watch them.

Like the folding game generated by the flyer, Santuoui present their production as a game with many twists and turns. Based on the ancient Chinese game of passing the flower, we enjoy the telling of nine surreal tales as masks are passed from one performer to the next. Surreal is certainly the right word for this production: nothing is as it seems within the depths of Summerhall and the entire cast thrive off the fluidity of their stage presence, shifting effortlessly between roles with the aid of elaborate masks inspired by Nuo theatre. Using no words, only mime, the cast use the masks themselves beautifully and to great effect. Under the slick direction of Zhao Miao the troop moves with ease in synchronisation: every shuffle, every nod of the head appears perfectly executed.

The company create incredibly precise tableaux, their movements exaggerated but exact. Subtle changes in colours and sound effects work to create beautiful transitions between scenes and moods, moving us from a surreal fight between an eye, ear, mouth in which the features act to attack a masked man to a hysterical mimed meal in which a family pass round varying types of cutlery until their feast soon turns awry Titus Andronicus-style. These performers need very little to create something magical: red and blue gloves transform into fish; a single shell turns a grown woman into a snail.

At times we’re not sure what’s going on, but that’s half the fun of it. Attempting to work out what exactly is happening, and who is who, is part of the intricate game that Theatre SanTuoQui invite us to play. A hymn to disappearance? The play certainly features the disappearance of its players as they work their way through a myriad of characters and scenes in quick succession, morphing seamlessly and disappearing deftly behind masks with grace.

Theatre SanTuoQi are a company to be reckoned with - watch them.

Reviews by Thea Hawlin

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The ancient Chinese game of passing the flower leads to the telling of nine surreal tales which each reflect a moment in which people get lost within their own lives, for reasons including jealousy, rage, death, despair or simply the inevitability of fate. Told without words, but purely by movement, dance and ritual masks, each story is informed by traditional Oriental culture but with a modern twist. They also contain elements of the Western Christian concept of the Seven Deadly Sins, interpreted from an Eastern perspective by one of Asia's leading independent theatre companies.