Feb 8 2012 Review by Barry Dix
Jin Long Chinese New Year Extravaganza is at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Saturday (February 11). Contact the box office on 01753 853888 or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk.
EDINBURGH may have two but Windsor, for this week at least, has no less than five.
We're talking about pandas, newly arrived from China and delighting onlookers with their playful antics.
Needless to say, the five who are charming audiences at Windsor's Theatre Royal, bouncing and cavorting about the stage in an assortment of amusing actrobatic routines, don't prepare for the rigours of their displays by munching on bamboo shoots.
Mind you, the young acrobats inside the black and white suits do come from the same place as the real pandas and are touring Britain in a series of shows organised by the Jin Long Centre UK to mark the
beginning of the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
In a fast-moving, often breathtaking, sequence of 'party pieces' the talented performers combine grace, skill, strength and comedy to create a feast of visual delights.
The members of the cast could not have been better trained. They are all from the Chengdu School of Culture and Art, which participated in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and has
performed on Chinese TV's Spring Festival Gala, which has about 700 million viewers.
There may have been a few less at the Theatre Royal for the opening night on Monday, but there was an enthusiastic and warm welcome for the visitors.
A dragon dance set the scene for an assortment of Chinese delights, which as well as the aforementioned Happy Pandas, included roller skating stunts, rope tricks, a contortionist and an awesome display of
Tai Chi by British-based Chen Deqing, a fifth level master.
Each showpiece section was charmingly and politely introduced and all had simple titles, some more intriguing than others, such as 'Ballet Dance on Palm', which turned out not to be Turpsichorean twirlings on leaves but a stunning mixture of strength and daintiness which included the female dancer pirouetting on her partner's outsretched palm!
A baffling demonstration of 'face changing' in the style of Chinese opera - seen recently on BBC TV's The Magicians - was another of the highlights, but the biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for the straw hat jugglers, whose agility, balance and finely-tuned skills filled the stage with flying headgear!
The action in the show takes place to a bakground of traditional and updated Chinese music, along with some interesting Western selections.
It all adds up to a throughly entertaining evening featuring the sort of acts not regularly seen in UK theatres these days. And there's even a chance to learn to say Happy New Year in Chinese!
The Jin Long Chinese New Year Extravaganza is at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, until Saturday (February 11). Contact the box office on 01753 853888 or www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk.