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THEATRE REVIEW - Wind Shadow, Barbican Theatre

Having spent a year working in Taiwan, I was lazily expecting something to do with dragons to the tune of the rhythmic, wailing music that grated so much on my western ears. Wind Shadow is nothing of the kind: Cai Guo-Qiang and Lin Hwai-Min’s monochromatic visual spectacular blends precise, fluid movements with ultramodern special effects of the kind used in the 2008 Olympic ceremonies.
THEATRE REVIEW - Wind Shadow, Barbican Theatre
Wind Shadow by the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan has been in the Barbican Theatre all week. Having spent a year working in Taiwan, I was lazily expecting something to do with dragons to the tune of the rhythmic, wailing music that grated so much on my western ears. Wind Shadow is nothing of the kind: Cai Guo-Qiang and Lin Hwai-Min’s monochromatic visual spectacular blends precise, fluid movements with ultramodern special effects of the kind used in the 2008 Olympic ceremonies. The dancers are alternately people and shadows: locked in an endless shifting embrace, they move through a succession of windy scenes. The wind is achieved through billowing flags and flying kites kept aloft by fans hidden in the wings. The piece opens with a recurring motif: one dancer is an upright human with a visible face while another dancer in an all-over body stocking, working on the horizontal plane of the stage, plays his or her shadow. The two performers are joined at the feet. The effect is extraordinary: mesmeric and soothing at first, as the conjoined pairs drift across the stage, but terrifying later on, as the shadows break free and threaten to overwhelm the humans. There is one fabulous, skin-crawling section towards the end when the shadows, augmented by a large oval mirror suspended over the stage at 45 degrees, writhe and swarm like dying insects. The story grows increasingly dark over its 80 minute span and concludes with the entire cast being swallowed up by an incredible 3 dimensional vortex. Wind Shadow is as impressive for the innovative stagecraft on show as for the dancing. Portable projectors, which are on the point of ubiquity, were used with great effect to cast moving images onto fluttering flags: not a whining dragon in sight.

David Trennery

Tuesday 13 October, 2009

About the author

David Trennery is a free-lance writer.