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The Peasant Prince | Monkey Baa Theatre Company
Written by Richard Cotter   
Sunday, 10 April 2016 17:57
The Peasant Prince | Monkey Baa Theatre CompanyMonkey Baa Theatre Company’s resident performing space, Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre is in the same precinct as Sydney’s IMAX cinema. These school holidays, Monkey Baa is presenting The Peasant Prince, a pared down theatrical version of Li Cunxin’s Mao’s Last Dancer. It will be vying against Batman V Superman screening at IMAX.

The Peasant Prince is  simple, imaginative, and constructive celebration of life, while the tawdry, paltry comic book extravaganza delights in destructiveness, depression and darkness. While the CGI stricken film is surly, vengeful, and morbid, The Peasant Prince is vital, exuberant, aspirational, and inspirational. BvS is a mind and bum numbing hundred and fifty minutes, The Peasant Prince is a spritely and spirited fifty minute sprint.

Keeping the script splendidly simple and supple, writing collaborators Eva Di Cesare, Sandie Eldridge and Tim McGarry create a fluid framework in which four talented actors transport us back to Mao’s China where a peasant boy is picked to go to Beijing to study ballet. Pangs of parting mixed with the jubilation of pride are beautifully rendered between parent and child and old folk tales are incorporated as parables to inform the journey from juvenile to maturity.

John Gomez Goodway is suitably charismatic and athletic in the role of Li Cunxin, conveying a genuine feeling of journey from carefree kite flying kid to poised professional high flyer. He is splendidly supported by an ensemble of players who take on a myriad of characters crucial to his journey.

Jenevieve Chang is charming as his loving mother responsible for setting his moral compass and supportive of his aspirations. She is equally charming as his village school teacher then steely and trenchant as his dance instructor and deliriously garrulous and gauchely glamourous as a Texan arts benevolent.

Jonathan Chan gives solid gravitas as stern but benevolent father, and severe and malevolent Party bureaucrat.

Edric Hong canvases the comedy, mostly, as a brother with stinky feet and fart antics and scatological obsession, a national talent scout, and a flamboyant choreographer.

Designer Michael Hankin’s imposing wooden frame with scrim, which allows for easy actor entrance and exit access, video projection and silhouette work, is impressively utilitarian, a monolithic set piece that is practical and symbolic. Sian James-Holland’s lighting is top notch.

Directed by Tim McGarry, The Peasant Prince is a little gem of stage craft, a funny, engaging entertainment that has the special affect that live theatre can conjure over the special effects of cookie cutter cinema confection. In the foyer, after the show, a 12 year old boy concurred.

Monkey Baa Theatre Company presents
The Peasant Prince
by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry | based on the book by Li Cunxin

Director Tim McGarry

Venue: LendLease Darling Quarter Theatre, Sydney
Dates: 9 – 20 April 2016
Times: 10.30am & 12.30pm
Tickets: $29

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