Taiwan Season: Heart of Darkness

A psychic journey, through physical theatre and music, Sun Son Theatre’s Heart of Darkness explores the damage inflicted on a woman by arranged marriage. Inspired by the choreographer and dancer, Low Pei-Fen’s grandmother – who the males in the family called crazy – this show is a little gem. The movement and music meld into a searing non-verbal dialogue evoking her conflicting emotions.

Low Pei-Fen is a dynamic performer but the real star of the show is the extraordinarily expressive soundscape.

Long hair features throughout, symbolising the tie which must never be cut and which binds her to her parents’ expectations, but whether she’s protected or trapped is in question. As the woman relives her pre-wedding emotions, anxieties and fears, her braid swirls around her and stretches on the floor; she walks on it symbolising her path in life. Throwing it in all directions, she momentarily rebels with fierce Tai Chi martial art inspired moves.

Low’s versatility as a performer is impressive. From anguish conveyed by Butoh-like contortions and crouching to hysterical laughter, her varying moods are matched by the mesmerising and spine-tingling music like nothing I have heard before: both eerie and heart-rending. Played live on stage by four musicians using traditional Chinese instruments such as the gu zhen (harp), er wu (fiddle) and instruments from throughout the world, a rainstick, Malyasian gongs and the Indian Shruti drone box, plus electronic music composed by Goh Lee Kwang, impressionistic contemporary sounds are interspersed with chanting, throat gurgles, wails, horns and staccato clicks of wood. Occasionally, these soundscapes are interrupted by recordings of Chinese traditional Bei Guan wedding music to remind us of the woman’s impending fate.

A turning point is reached indicated by drumming. The three female musicians dance with large drums attached to their backs, hit by curving sticks which they must swing behind them. The burden of responsibilities and duties a woman must bear throughout their lives, the drums also indicate a ritual to drive out evil spirits. Strengthened, the woman at last calms herself to face the uncertain future of her marriage with courage and dignity.

Costumes and set are simple but striking. in particular the use of red (It helps to know that it is the Chinese symbol of happiness and weddings). Her undergarments, revealed in the back flips are red, masked by the muddy colours she wears on top, perhaps suggesting that her inner self and potential happiness are suffocated by the strictures of marriage. Vast red flags are waved and the sudden unfolding of a red banner at the back of the stage is a dramatic prelude to the nuptials. The lowering of a red cloth over the woman’s head and hiding her face finally erases her individuality and is a moving end to the show as she walks down a red carpet to her wedding.

Low Pei-Fen is a dynamic performer but the real star of the show is the extraordinarily expressive soundscape.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

Scottish Ballet

The Secret Theatre

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Antigone, Interrupted

★★★★
Festival Theatre

Scottish Ballet: The Snow Queen

★★★★
Royal Lyceum Theatre

An Edinburgh Christmas Carol

★★★★★
Festival Theatre

Rite of Spring

★★★
Dance Base

Juliet & Romeo

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Taipei-based Sun Son Theatre fuses instrument, voice, body, drama, ritual and environment with traditional and folk elements, symbolic objects and contemporary theatre to explore the inner self. Its work is characterised by an organic performance energy free from racial and cultural boundaries. Long hair symbolises a woman’s pathway through life. Time shrinks in her shadow. Aspiration, expectation, fear, secrets and ambition lay hidden deep inside. Heart of Darkness attempts to understand women who are slowly forgotten.

Most Popular See More

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets