The Hong Kong kung fu-cum-Cantonese opera acrobatic dance show Along (does that say it all? Not quite) is like plunging into a mental bath.
Along, C South Main Theatre, Edinburgh ****
Come to it from loftier Fringe fare, and you’re sitting bolt upright in a moment.
Bare-chested men perform flying kicks and comic combat and leap from hand to hand, but to silly waltz music and a speeded-up version of what was probably Pachebel’s Canon.
With no props except springy bars, they outdo the kind of physical tricks you see in certain over-heated circus shows, with no time wasted on build up or pauses for applause, and make it look almost easy.
“We have only two heads and two feet. How can I express myself?” The philosophical voice-over is Bruce Lee, and the answer is, very well. This is a short sharp show with just a 35-minute run time but you understand why: only 20 minutes in and the performers, in coloured demon masks, are sweaty and visibly physically stressed.
Along was first developed as a solo work in 2017, when award-winning choreographer Hugh Cho was commissioned to expand it to a group work for the Hong Kong Dance Exchange Festival. It went on to tour Asia. There’s a re-enaction one of Lee’s iconic fight scenes in his self-parodying style. The TS Crew is a professional performing arts group with members from different backgrounds, from drama, dance, and martial arts to film industry stunting.
But 2019 has brought a startling change of tone. Out of the blue, in this performance, a powerful film about the Hong Kong protests, with graphic media reports of savage beatings of peaceful marchers by police.
It leads into a short, moving finale, a simple no-frills work of choreography, of vulnerable bodies clinging for support. “We do not want to challenge our government. We just want ask to government to talk.” A candidate for the Spirit of the Fringe award, if ever there was.
Until 13 August