Peking Opera Presents WARRIOR WOMEN OF YANG

Lavish and captivating spectacle unites history, culture, theatre and nations

By Jessica Cornish

Warrior Women of Yang hit the Regent Theatre stage Friday night, whether we were prepared for it or not. The high-quality production directed by Zheng Yiqiu was produced by the relatively new China National Peking Opera Company.

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In a world of entertainment where women are so often depicted as victims that suffer at the hands of men, it was refreshing to see a show in which the women were portrayed as strong leaders. Warrior Women of Yang was set during the Song Dynasty (960 AD- 1279 AD) and followed the tale of Commander She Tai Jun who led the Song Army into battle against Western Xia.

As a long-time lover of western theatre and confessedly ignorant of other forms and traditions of world theatre, I attended the night’s performance unsure of what was to come. However, I don’t believe the experience was lost on me. One of the company’s stated ideologies is to foster cultural exchange between the Chinese people and the people of the world, and I was enraptured to experience being one of those people through this production.

The performance offered an abundance of auditory and visual stimuli. The traditional Chinese orchestration under the direction of Zhang Fu was precise, piercing and exciting. This was coupled with high-pitch fluctuating intonation patterns of the performer’s vocals, a skill incomparable to anything I had experienced before. It was impossible not to become immersed in the music that was all encompassing and continuous: it seemed there was not a moment of silence or stillness throughout the exciting two-and-a-half-hour performance, and the standout performer for the evening with a strong stage presence and an equally impressive vocal quality and ability was Zhang Jing.

The dazzling fight scenes were incredibly well-choreographed and easily the highlight of my night. It was impossible not to get lost in the constant acrobatics. Bodies were effortlessly tossed through the air, accompanied by the thrill of drums and cymbals. The sword-play scenes were also truly something to behold and the mixture of tassels, feathers and colours had a hypnotic effect, and set the room into an almost trance-like state. The costumes throughout were beautiful, often characterised by brightly coloured silks and accompanied by flowing cloth backdrops designed by Zhao Jinsheng.

The audience loved it, and ‘Hao!’ (the Chinese equivalent of ‘Bravo!’) was heard shouted at the stage throughout the night. Visually enthralling and musically engaging, and with English translations were provided throughout the evening so I knew what was going on at all times,Warrior Women of Yang was a unique and educational experience for all Australian audiences.

Warrior Women of Yang was performed on Friday and Saturday 11-12th of November 2016, at 7:00 PM at Regent Theatre, Melbourne, VIC