Chun Yi: The Legend of Kung Fu Review
Published 22 July 2009
An exciting new show is coming to London. You might have seen the posters flashing in front of your eyes as you ride the escalators down into the depths of the London Tube system. This new show is Chun Yi: The Legend of Kung Fu, a runaway success since its debut in 2004 in Beijing, and has been performed over 3,000 times at the Red Theatre in Beijing since then and has been the longest running production ever in China. The fact that a kung fu production in the motherland of martial arts can survive for 5 years speaks volumes about the quality of the show and is a better indicator of the quality of the show than any review you come across.
The story is about a boy who joins a group of monks at a temple to start his apprenticeship. It is an exploration of the boy’s initial difficulty of adapting to the strict discipline of martial arts, but quickly learns to excel in the art of Zen and Kung Fu. But in his life long journey to spiritual enlightenment, he faces many obstacles that he must overcome as well as resist the various temptations along the way. The show has been beautifully choreographed, with plenty of kung fu, acrobatics, and dancing that will keep adults and children alike entertained throughout.
The production in Beijing, China, was so good that it was in fact chosen by the Chinese government as a feature presentation of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The production has now toured the US, Japan, Russia, and Canada, and is making its UK debut at the London Coliseum on the 29th July 2009, with a limited run of 27 performances until the 16th August.
The London Insider was kindly invited by the show’s producers to one of the evening shows, and as someone with just a passing interest in Kung Fu I did not really know what to expect. Most shows in London involving foreign culture usually fail to connect with the local audience or have been modified or much adapted that they are no longer true to their original roots, and as such I approached this show with a bit of trepidation. But Chun Yi definitely sticks to its roots as a Kung Fu show. Experts in martial arts will marvel and appreciate the skill shown; whilst casual audiences might fail to appreciate certain sequences that are visually not impressive, but are some of the hardest moves. The show does have many scenes and stunts that appeal to the mass audience, with feats such as balancing on a sharp trident (see picture to the right), as well as breaking massive bricks and smashing swords on one’s forehead to bits. Definitely very entertaining for the kids, and one show I will wholeheartedly recommend to parents who have young kids who are fascinated by and into kung fu and martial arts.
Despite the show delivering on its basic premise (a showcase of excellent kung fu skills), it falls flat in other areas that are important in theatre, such as the very weak story-line, the appearance of random scenes that do not contribute to the plot, as well as some of the scenes that are a tad bit too long. Its fascinating to see kung fu moves, but when its done repeatedly for the umpteenth time, one does get a bit restless. The first half was rather laborious, with the plot build-up not captivating and the kung fu rather unimpressive. But do stay for the second half, which was many times better and where the real action is, and which opened with one of the best scenes of the entire show. In that scene the choreography, music, setting, special effects, and of course the acrobatic skills were superb and top-notch, with those few minutes well worth most of the ticket price. I won’t give away what the scene was for those planning to go and watch the show.
Would we recommend the show? Granted, it was not the perfect show, and The London Insider believes that this is one of the weaker ones currently running in the West End. It is well suited for die-hard martial arts fans, as well as those with kids who are still fascinated by stunts like using your forehead to break a knife, or lying on sharp knifes and having a brick smashed on your abs. But as a whole the show is not worth the full ticket price of £55 for stalls seats, as for the same price you can get stall seats for virtually any of the shows running around Leicester Square. But for a tenner for balcony seats (RRP £18), or stall seats at 50% off (£27.50), I think it is rather good value for money, and quite worth the price.
Tickets are now on sale, and is expected to sell out quickly due to the high publicity, popularity, and the limited run of shows. Lastminute.com are running a deal/promotion at the moment where tickets can be bought for as little as £10 for the balcony seats, or you can get best available (stalls) at 50% off for only £27.50, as well as dinner plus show ticket packages for as little as £20.
Ticketmaster are also selling the tickets at a discount off the official price. You can get best available seats for £29.50 (normally £55.00), by entering the code TMDEAL in the “TicketDeal Partner Offer” box on the booking page. They also have a special video trailer of the show that you can watch. If tickets for a particular performance are sold out, don’t fret! You can always buy some tickets second hand through the reputable Viagogo, an online ticket exchange.
If you are looking to see other musicals and theatre shows in London, why not check out our superb Top 10 ways to save on West End Musicals guide for some money saving tips and ways to get discounts and the cheapest ticket available.