This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
A prelude of a colourful set of shadow puppet animations of trams, pulled rickshaws and junks set the scene of Hong Kong in the 1940s. The story of an earnest food hawker and her mischievous pet goose is played out through the dark times of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong where food is rationed and scarce and curfew is imposed.
Produced by Out Of Chaos in association with Yellow Earth Theatre bringing stories inspired by East Asia, primarily Hong Kong and China, this is played through physical theatre, puppetry and manipulation of objects. The relationship between the two-man – controlled puppet goose and the stall owner, played by the ever so slightly over the top Paula Siu is similar to that between a dog and its owner. Though a goose is perhaps more acceptable as a cooking ingredient and the threat of it being roasted is constant. The intelligence shown by the goose is impressive, hence nudging the whole story into the fantastical realm. This consequently undermines the emotional impact of the story.
The physical theatre aspect can occasionally be farcical but the tone feels misjudged and is not executed as intended. A scene between the stall owner and a British soldier is a run of the mill clash-of-culture scenario lacking in invention, laughs and consequence. And the mimed ending is unclear, bringing an inadvertent ambiguity which further diminishes the story. The simplicity of the storyline and the broadness of the performance mean it will find more resonance among children.
There are some inventions and signs of greatness such as the opening sequence. Along with the hallucinatory vision of the various kitchen utensils coming to life, it alludes to something more cynical than hunger. The beautifully made cart that is the wheeled food stall also doubles as a projection screen. The puppetry is competent though it is not easy to find a frame of reference for an animated goose, making it hard to relate.
This is a reasonable effort by a young theatre company and shows the potential to bring interesting stories and tell them in the universal language of physical theatre and puppetry,
Photo: Richard Davenport