The epic masterpiece Under Siege is the perfect introduction to this year’s Melbourne Festival. Yang Liping’s operatic retelling of Farewell My Concubine is the culmination of a millennia of Chinese culture. A total of twenty-two dancers, musicians, and a paper cutter bring a story of love and war to life.
Whilst based on the historic Battle of Gaixia, Liping comments in the program that the performance is more about showcasing China’s evolving dance culture than a history lesson. Her choreography includes martial arts, hip-hop ballet and draws from traditional dance from rural China. Under Siege brings a new level of spectacle through impressive costuming, set, lighting, and sound design.
To put it into perspective, there are thousands of scissors that form a moving canopy above the dancers. They are ever-present and bring a formidable danger with them. The visual director Tim Yip (well known for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) designed the set and costume as one fluid visual spectacle.
Wang Yan is the papper cutter and remains seated throughout the performance and provides the title of the acts in Chinese paper lettering. Her cutting and folding of paper is constant throughout the entire show. She begins and ends with a pile of paper surrounding her so that her body is half hidden. With further research I discovered that paper cutting is an artform in itself, a professional status that one can reach by meeting very strict criteria at a national level.
It was a fabulous performance that I felt honoured to witness. Under Siege is the perfect reminder of the quality international works that the Melbourne Festival brings to our small corner of the world.
Amber Bock is a freelance stage manager who is excited to keep you up to date with Melbourne’s best theatre.
Under Siege runs till 4-8 October 2017 at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, 8pm (90 minutes). Contains the use of haze. Book tickets now.
The venue is accessible.
The Melbourne Festival runs 4–22 October 2017. Read our guide to the best of the Melbourne Festival.