Posted by Genevieve Wood
05. Oct, 2013
Based on Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera Madame Butterly, Daniel Keene’s adaptation comes to life revamped as a contemporary musical slash bilingual drama. A mash up of sorts, the also show features puppetry, questionable humour and a fusion of East meets West jazzy pop music.
Set in 1930s Shanghai, Cho Cho (Wang Zheng) is sold for marriage by her relatives to an American naval officer, Captain Pinkerton (Scott Irwin). Viewing the marriage as a fleeting business transaction, Pinkerton leaves Cho Cho and Shanghai behind to find himself an American wife who he deems to be more suitable.
In his absence, Cho Cho lives with her infant son in heartache and hope dreaming of the day when her American Captain will return. When that day does come three years later, Pinkerton returns with his ice cold new wife (Danielle Barnes) and only to collect his son.
Cho Cho is a unique collaboration between Arts Centre Melbourne, Playking Productions and the National Theatre of China however it’s not entirely a recipe for success, with little emphasis on the cultural differences and endless sense of longing that were the basis of the entire tragedy.
Things get a little shaky when Cho Cho the puppet is dismantled before our very eyes on her wedding night while Cho Cho the girl stands aside and we pretend not to notice her. Perhaps an attempt to dehumanise the child bride and emphasise the effect the marriage had on a young Cho Cho; it comes off unintentionally comical when it is presented as a literal out of body experience.
There are some incredibly touching scenes between Cho Cho and her son which are to Director Peter Wilson and puppeteer Hang Xing’s credit. The simple and loving relationship between mother and son is the highlight of the show and Wang Zheng is lovely throughout.
Cho Cho is playing at the Arts Centre until October 6, for tickets visit http://events.artscentremelbourne.com.au/tickets/production.aspx?PID=13153
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