Theatre review: Shaolin Warriors

**** Playhouse Theatre

BRITAIN'S Got Talent has sadly come to an end for another year and if you're already missing the stunning choreography and amazing athleticism on offer from winners Diversity, then the Shaolin Warriors could be just what you need.

With their jaw-dropping mix of martial arts, theatrical performance and raw talent, the Beijing-based performers provided the perfect tonic for those BGT withdrawal symptoms last night.

It was a bombardment of energy and skill right from the start as the 22 professionally-trained monks leapt on to the stage with an inch-perfect synchronism that didn't let up for the whole show.

Fresh from a break after shows in Aberdeen, Motherwell and Inverness last month, the kung-fu masters returned to the stage to continue their first-ever tour of the UK, put on to mark the Beijing Olympic Games.

Direct from the Chinese capital, this fully-choreographed theatrical production brought the remarkable skill, stunning movement and spectacular imagery of kung-fu to life and gave a rare up-close glimpse of the mysterious martial art and meditation practised by the Shaolin monks.

Naturally, the show was the perfect treat for any practitioners of martial arts and the armchair fans of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee will have been equally delighted by a stage show that was like watching a king-fu movie being played out live. The performers attacked each other with bare knuckles, knives, spears, whips and sticks with fearsome speed and breath-taking choreography.

This wasn't just a show for the hardcore martial arts fans, however, more like a family-centred variety performance – it had a little something for everyone.

Amazing athleticism and gymnastic dexterity were set alongside mind-boggling feats of strength as the beefiest Shaolin Warrior was set upon by six others armed with a battering ram the size of a tree trunk.

There were also circus-style death-defying stunts as the monks lay down on knives and a bed of nails or were suspended in the air by spears. And, of course, there was a sizeable portion of breaking objects on foreheads, made especially impressive in that those objects were often made of metal and not wood. Ouch!

In true variety show fashion, audience participation played a big part in the enjoyment and provided a welcome light relief to the intensity of the combat scenes. Almost every youngster in the audience was invited on stage for an impromptu kung-fu lesson and there were more than a few grumbles from the adults who were obviously dying to practise their own hi-yah.

An extravaganza of kung-fu mastery, enchanting music, beautiful lighting and good old fashioned variety performance, the Shaolin Warriors proved that when it comes to family entertainment, China's Got Talent.

YOUR REVIEW: 'The eeriness adds to the atmosphere'

Stan Calder, 46, karate instructor, Dunfermline: "I'm a karate black belt so it's really interesting to see a different style of combat up close. They're extremely fit and precise with their movements so it's really impressive. At times it was maybe just slightly too clean and polished for me, more like dancing than fighting."

Stewart Templeton, 22, student, Meadows: "The fighting and gymnastic ability of the performers is amazing. I'm especially impressed by their use of poles and swords because it's not something I've ever done myself, even though I've practised martial arts since I was seven. The eeriness of the lighting and colours on stage really adds to the atmosphere too."

Elisabeth Patterson, 56, runs Miss Tilly's Fudge, Tillycoutrie: "The discipline and philosophy of kung fu is what impresses me most. You have to spend years and years to get to that sort of level. I think that's why what the youngest boys were doing on stage was so impressive. To be that young and that disciplined is unbelievable."