Catford’s Broadway Theatre has been on my list of London venues yet to discover first-hand for a while – no wonder I am blown away by the unexpected size of this historic music hall and admire its art deco interior already in the box office. Here panto seasons are advertised on loud posters: The previous one and the one for this year’s Christmas season and for those who cannot wait even an Easter panto. The unofficial theme continues in the foyer where popcorn is for sale and children have dressed up as pirates and animals. A motivated narrator guides through tonight’s program with the enthusiasm of a kids’ game show host and tells us the story of Chinese New Year’s link to the colour red.
Acrobats dressed up as dragons and pandas support the story in front of a background of lampions and looking around, this seems indeed the first trip to a show for some little visitors – it does not matter in the slightest that they point and shout in astonishment, their excitement is truly adorable. A performance with fluorescent diabolos follows, a tai chi fan dance and hat juggling. “Cruise ship entertainment”, utters my Valentine’s date.
I had not seen or heard the Chinese two-stringed fiddle erhu before today, and we are treated to a solo performance of impressive speed. Neither have I experienced Chinese opera – thanks to our narrator we learn that this is from the opera Mulan (several parents google pictures of Disney’s Mulan straightaway to prove to their children that they do know her story). Now, the singing is without doubt a different type of classical signing my ears are used to and my appetite is satisfied after the single aria.
A girls’ group of contortionists is up next – the audience is reminded not to try any of this at home. Tangled and high up they are and one of them just lifts her whole body just by biting a stool, technically hanging upwards on a single jaw. Wow.
However, because this is not the Valentine’s date we expected we agree to leave in the interval. I would have liked to hear more about the rat this year is dedicated to according to the Chinese zodiac cycle. Even more I would have loved to hear the music hall’s big organ in action; I’ll happily return one day. The Elephant Man is on soon.
*** out of 5 stars
This was a one-off show.