Running the Silk Road

We’ve been to see Yellow Earth Theatre perform Running the Silk Road at the Everyman. Written by Paul Sirett and directed by David Tse Ka-shing, it’s a  richly visual production, telling a modern story mixed with Chinese myths.

In the year of the Beijing Olympics, a group of friends from London set themselves an epic challenge – to run the ancient Silk Road trading route to China, carrying an “alternative” Olympic flame. Once on the road, complications and conflict test friendships and soon threaten their chances of success. Weaving in and out of the contemporary story are the magical and timeless myths, performed using the spectacularly acrobatic, whirling excitement of the Beijing Opera Theatre.

This is the Guardian’s review:

It is a given that good drama takes you on a journey. Paul Sirett’s play takes you further than most – more than 5,000 miles in fact, as Ken Fung, a student of Chinese mythology, pledges to tackle global warming by carrying an alternative Olympic torch along the ancient trading route from Turkey to Beijing.

If that sounds ambitious, you should read some of the stage directions, which call for the hero to be engulfed in a flood, while the demigod Yu is born by parthenogenesis from his belly. It is the kind of image that would be beyond the scope of companies other than British east Asian ensemble Yellow Earth, whose bilingual production (in English and subtitled Mandarin) features performers from the Beijing Opera.

The Silk Road is a lot to cover in 90 minutes, though David Tse Ka-Shing’s production hurtles along, as Ken and his three running mates are faced with locusts, bandits and Kazakh mechanics who want to sell them an old Soviet truck.

There is a naivety about these characters that accounts for their undertaking such a scheme in the first place; though it is in the moments when Ken collapses with exhaustion and is visited by apparitions from the Chinese Opera that the production finds a different level. The running battle between Shen Feng’s God of Thunder and Yanzhong Huang’s Queller of the Flood is an epic tussle of incredible agility, while the cast demonstrate sinuous expertise in the manipulation of various dragons, serpents and giant insects.

Nick Chee Ping Kellington endearingly plays Ken as a bookish nerd whose original plan to complete a daily half-marathon is over-ambitious – though with all those Chinese deities erupting from his stomach, he must have had a bellyful.

Running The Silk Road preview

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