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Why The Lion Danced: Polka Theatre Interview

4 February 2013 Tom Butler

We do really set out to bring some of the excitement, energy and fun of Chinese New Year to UK audiences and they really enjoy it.

In the midst of their nationwide tour and ahead of performances at Polka Theatre, Kumiko Mendl, Artistic Director of Yellow Earth, told London Calling all about their current production - Why The Lion Danced

London Calling: Tell us about the play for the uninitiated if you wouldn’t mind.

Kumiko Mendl: The play takes place in the back of a Chinese takeaway where nine year old Tom and his family live. It is Chinese New Year’s eve and the family are preparing for the coming celebrations. After an accident which results in Tom being told off by his over worked father, Nana decides to tell the story behind the Lion dance. All the members of the family end up re-telling this delightful tale

LC: Who would you say the play is for in terms of age range?

KM: We have had babies to grandparents and all ages in between enjoying the show but it was created with children 5+ in mind. If anyone has a child going through “I am petrified of any monsters” stage then I would recommend they are not brought along!

LC: How have you gone about capturing the grandeur and spectacle that is the Chinese New Year with the limitations a stage presents?

KM: Ha, good question – We find our own way of recreating the excitement, sounds and colour on stage.  We deliberately chose the take away setting so we could have all the kitchen utensils and New Year paraphernalia around which the family make great use of to re-tell the story and I’m not giving away the ending except to say the audiences always find it a wow moment.

LC: How big a part does the music play in the production? Can you tell us more about the score?

KM: We are very fortunate to have a wonderful multi talented Beijing Opera musician who can play wind, string and percussion instruments with equal ability and she can also act! We worked together in rehearsals to find the right sounds, instruments and songs and there is a mixture of traditional New Year music and Beijing Opera percussion to accompany some of the choreography, plus drumming for the Lion dance!

 

"We do really set out to bring some of the excitement, energy and fun of Chinese New Year to UK audiences and they really enjoy it."

LC: How have the performances been received so far across the country?

KM: The show has been universally well received whether we go, we do really set out to bring some of the excitement, energy and fun of Chinese New Year to UK audiences and they really enjoy it. 

LC: Tell us more about Yellow Earth and the work you undertake;

KM: Yellow Earth has been going since 1995 and I was in fact one of the five founder members. It was established to develop new theatre work by British East Asian (BEA) artists and to engage audiences from all backgrounds in this work through public readings and touring productions so we have done work for adults as well as theatre for children and young people.  We have presented high profile productions in London and on tour, along with programmes developing new BEA writers, directors and performers.

Since I became Artistic Director in 2011 after having worked as education and outreach associate of the company for a number of years I have set out to engage audiences in immersive work in new spaces of which Dim Sum Nights is a prime example and I am curious to explore how audiences can and do participate in productions.

Why The Lion Danced is at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon from the 20th February - 2nd March. For further information about the show and to book tickets please click here

For further information about Yellow Earth please click here

 

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