SHAOLIN WARRIORS

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

31/08/2016 - 04/09/2016

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

07/09/2016 - 11/09/2016

Production Details



Over the last 16 years, the Shaolin Warriors from China have become a worldwide sensation, playing to sell-out audiences and standing ovations in more than 40 countries.

Audiences will be gasping in disbelief at their hypnotic and death-defying feats when the Shaolin Warriors return to New Zealand this September.

Featuring 22 Kung Fu Masters, this breath-taking fully choreographed show vividly illustrates the agility and miraculous physical endurance these warriors achieve through rigorous martial arts training and focused Buddhist meditation.

From balancing on sharp metal spears to smashing marble slabs with their heads, from the troupe’s incredible synchronisation to their proficiency with 18 dangerous traditional weapons, The Shaolin Warriors will amaze audiences beyond the boundaries of belief.

With stunning scenery, atmospheric music, spectacular lighting and costumes, The Shaolin Warriors are the ultimate display of theatre and physical prowess, and a ‘must-see’ for adults and children alike.

Act 1 – approx. 50 mins
20 minute interval
Act 2 – approx 1 hour

 

WELLINGTON 

AUCKLAND
Wed 7 Sep 2016, 6:30pm–9:00pm  
Thu 8 Sep 2016, 7:30pm–10:00pm  
Fri 9 Sep 2016, 7:30pm–10:00pm  
Sat 10 Sep 2016, 2:30pm–5:00pm  
Sat 10 Sep 2016, 7:30pm–10:00pm  
Sun 11 Sep 2016, 1:00pm–3:30pm  
Sun 11 Sep 2016, 6:00pm–8:30pm

 



Spectacle , Dance ,


2hrs 10mins

Beauty, elegance, storytelling, humour, amazing kung fu artistry

Review by Chris Jannides 02nd Sep 2016

Shaolin Warriors is a show that has been touring the world since its creation in 2000. That’s a long-running show! A large, all-male cast of performers loosely act out a story of two boys’ initiations into a Shoalin temple, their subsequent training and eventual emergence as full-grown monks sent out into the world to spread the teachings.

However, it is not the drama or story that is the draw card, it is the visual feast in terms of physical skill and choreographic spectacle. Over the 2 hour course of the show we witness numerous acts that are unique to this Chinese martial arts form. The movements are now familiar to global eyes. Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan are household names. Although kung fu comes in numerous styles, all of which originate in different parts of China and from different lineages and origins, there is a recognisable consistency in its look. Crouched positions, extended arms with flexed wrists, high jumps, deadly kicks, rapid arm movements that alternate between striking and blocking actions, intricate hand shapes, acrobatic flips, hyper-flexible legs, graceful Tai Chi actions that seduce the eyes, and this is just with the body alone. Add weapons, of which there are many – swords, staffs, spears, daggers, fans, whips, to name a few – and the movement range and visual amazement increase even further.

Production elements in the show complement it nicely. Lights and smoke create mystical effects. Traditional music with Buddhist chants, gongs, zithers, powerful drumming, mixed with enchanting female singing and lush orchestral moments are expertly tailored to the action. Backdrops, scenery, painted curtains change the environment into temples, courtyards, woodland. At one point, a giant head of Buddha, eyes closed and in deep all-seeing meditation, dominates the action and the stage. A curtain with large figures of monks painted on it is effectively used at various points to close off the front of the stage. These moments produce some of the highlights of the show in terms of amusement and audience participation. In one, a large group of children are randomly selected and invited onto the stage to learn a kung-fu routine. In another, two male audience members try in vain to pull a stainless steel bowl off the stomach of one of the performers who is holding it there with sheer abdominal strength alone. Amusement and laughter aside, such contrasts between the novice and these highly skilled practitioners add to our appreciation of this troupe of extraordinarily talented martial artists.

An interesting angle on the term ‘martial arts’ that a show like this brings out is that a form of fighting, which is all about violent and deadly human interaction, also doubles as an ‘art form’ designed, like dance, around goals of entertainment and beauty. Choreographic patterns of Shaolin monks moving in unison on stage showcase the intensely repetitive training methods and disciplined ensemble skills required of an army of warriors. These at the same time capture the excitement we feel when we watch tightly synchronised dancers in a corps de ballet, for instance. Fast-paced fighting sequences that are breathtakingly timed where individuals engage in unarmed combat or with weapons – sometimes one-on-one, sometimes one against many – parallel the complex partnering and intricate group formations that dance choreographers working at the highest professional levels achieve. Shaolin Warriors demonstrates that in the non-violent place of entertainment and theatrical performance, the artistries of fighters and dancers merge in their mutual celebration of physical and mental discipline and excellence.

One thing that surprises me in this performance and that goes against my expectation is its sense of spirituality. I thought, beforehand, because of its orientation towards mass entertainment, that its references to Zen Buddhism, meditation and the monastic lifestyle of monks would be gratuitous. In other words, faked for theatrical effect. While I have no idea whether I am looking at martial arts actors on stage, or actual monks (I suspect the former), what I appreciate is that the crafting of the show generates a real sense of respect for its subject matter. 

For me, Shaolin Warriors doesn’t cheapen itself or become overly cheesy. Yes, there are all the carnival side-show trappings and popular show-off displays of sticks being broken on bare heads, slabs of stone being smashed with sledge hammers on the naked torsos of bodies lying on top of nails or the exposed blades of swords, or a monk suspended high in the air on a tower of spears, not to mention another one using his chest as a chopping board to slice cabbage. But the tone throughout, emphasised by the recurring motif of hands held in front of chests in prayer position, soften these more gaudy aspects.

I liked this show very much. The 12 year old who accompanied me called Shaolin Warriors the best show ever. Martial arts enthusiasts and their families (who are an astute and discerning group for a performance like this) that I overheard in the foyer during the interval were clearly excited and highly satisfied. There is beauty, elegance, storytelling, humour, amazing skills and great respect for the deep artistry and extraordinary cultural and historical achievements of Chinese kung-fu. Very worth seeing. Memorable in particular is the youngest boy of the two and the smallest person in the cast whose side-splits and ability to kick his forehead with his leg are a stand-out highlight (amongst many).

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