Just when the possibility of becoming jaded began to surface, Wild Swans reminded me of theatre's unique ability to amaze and astonish. Distilling Jung Chang's epic novel into 90 minutes would seem to be impossible but Alexandra Wood has produced a remarkable adaptation taking in the period from the dawn of the Communist revolution to China on the brink of becoming a modern industrial power and only rarely does it feel like events are being uncomfortably condensed. Although this only provides a snapshot of history we get a flavour of revolutionary optimism leading to the thought police of the local committees cleansing of past association with privelege and the robotic parrotting of Mao's Red Book by an unthinking army of followers. The centrepiece of the play focuses on the disastrous policies which caused a famine that killed millions whilst desperately needed food was sold to Russia in exchange for missile technology. Katie Leung is a bit out of her depth as the girl who grows up to become the author of the book Wild Swans, but Ka-Ling Cheung blazes with fury as her mother, denounced by her own husband for trying to reason with brainwashed officialdom and Orion Lee is impressively infuriating as the father who stubbornly refuses to give up his principles whatever the cost to his family. Miriam Buether has conceived another stage design of absolute genius and a couple of the scene changes brought gasps of admiration - in one the white walls of a hospital ward are transformed into colourful propaganda posters with water brushes, just like the books from childhood. Sacha Wares directs a multinational production which, by focussing on the stories of a handful of characters, brings to life a fascinating historical drama. - David Baxter
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