REVIEW: The Pilgrimage of the Heart, Etcetera Theatre, Camden

PUBLISHED: 11:26 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:09 07 September 2010

One star rating The only reason to see this play is to witness utterly woeful acting. From years worth of theatre going it would be hard to find a distant rival to this evening of totally under

REVIEW: The Pilgrimage of the Heart, Etcetera Theatre, Camden

One star rating

The only reason to see this play is to witness utterly woeful acting. From years worth of theatre going it would be hard to find a distant rival to this evening of totally undernourished work.

The poor standard is both surprising and a great shame. Director Shan Ng is multi-award nominated in her field, while The Pilgrimage of the Heart is actually an engaging story set in 1930s Shanghai.

Originally a novel by Eileen Zhang and adapted for the stage by Simon Wu, one of China's most gloomy eras sits as the backdrop to a tale of grave family ills and forbidden desire. This was a period where life's objectives amounted to the finding of salvation among an atmosphere of economic collapse and the threat of a Japanese invasion.

For our protagonist, a well established banker named Fengyi Xu, escape from reality is made even more crucial as he comes to the realisation that his marriage is perfectly hollow.

Fengyi's domestic unrest is further tangled by his daughter Lin's severe suffering of the Electra complex. Rather than repeal her desire he decides to embrace it. Well, that is the theory.

Due to the standard of acting we see him declare his mutual passion as if he were acknowledging a shared appreciation of Murray Mints. Lin is only slightly more convincing.

Long suffering mother and wife, Mei Fong, expresses some discomfort at her collapsing world by throwing the odd semi-strop, but no one in the audience was remotely won over.

Mei has the bright idea of sending her love rival daughter to an aunt for the summer, while she and Fengyi repair their marriage with a vacation in the mountains. While watching this, you too will wish you were somewhere up a mountain instead.

Until June 22.

Rene Butler


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