Normal Love

It isn’t only China’s economic power that is rising. Signs are that the Chinese artistic lion is beginning to stretch its paws more urgently.

The Chinese community in the UK goes back a long way. There are a hundred stories waiting to be told – one of which will make an appearance this week in Yellow Earth Theatre’s The Last Days of Limehouse (of which more later in the month).

Yellow Earth celebrates its 20th anniversary next year. But one of the emerging companies comes from young producer Eldarin Yeong. Normal Love, produced by her studio, merges western with Chinese artists to exhilarating effect.

Director, designer and lighting are all Chinese. But choreographer, performers and musicians are western and director Zi Ling’s direct influence for Normal Love is the work of Francis Bacon and the violent emotions his paintings suggest to her.

A visual artist, painter and film maker, Zi Ling’s production is never less than a stunning combination of texture and lighting, of costume, set, bodies and outstandingly through the music-making of solo cellist Julius Tedaldi and guitarist extraordinaire, Steve Broe.

Li’s subject is Love and her vision nothing if not an ironic comment on the idea of normal love. Judging by the choreography, it’s more to do with manipulation, disappointment and despair, at least between men and women. A gay alternative is an unspoken sub-theme.

The central figure is a young woman who delicately controls the three male dancers by a thin, invisible thread.

Sometimes acquiescent, sometimes loving, the female figure can also turn ugly and aggressive as when deliberately spewing cocktails gently down her partner’s shoulders. By the end, bathed in livid scarlet lighting, she is herself entrapped in her own thread whilst one of the men has performed a beautiful but devastating act of potential suicide with a gun. By contrast, two men nestle into each other with quiet reciprocity.

Normal Love’s special pleasure though comes from the dialogue set up between dancer and the dynamic playing of Broe and Tedaldi – Broe, a flamenco guitarist of demonic ferocity, Tedaldi’s cello a scraping voice of uncertainty and vulnerability.

Truly, a fascinating marriage of east and west that promises much for the future.