Snow in Midsummer, Swan Theatre, RSC
A STRONG sense of the ancient crashing headlong into the modern runs right through this fascinating production which is itself a jarring mix of classic Chinese storytelling and 21st century drama.
Based on a 13th century tale, Frances Ya-chu Cowhig’s Snow in Midsummer follows the outcome of a wronged woman’s curse on a regional town. Sentenced to be executed for murder Dou Yi brings the shock snowfall of the title and then condemns the town to a three-year drought.
While those whose fates are caught up in the drama struggle to make sense of life gradually drying up around them, we are treated to a beautifully-judged unravelling mystery the ultimate solution of which is as satisfying as it is tragic.
While staying true to the roots of the original, this script weaves in modern references, modern setting sand modern language to great effect.
There are strong performances throughout but it is a trio of female roles which really catch the eye. Katie Leung is excellent as the victim of the injustice, and given that most of the role is delivered as a soul-tortured ghost, it’s a performance surprisingly full of nuance and life.
Wendy Kweh is equally varied as a businesswoman convinced that her wealth and power will see her through most situations, and perhaps the star of the show is Emily Dao as her young child, not least because the part is so well written that it steers well clear of sentimentality and provides wisdom and humour in equal amounts.
There’s a thumping modern soundtrack from Studley’s Ruth Chan and imaginative use of shape-defining ribbon lights and stage effects. The combination resulting in a show which is always animated and watchable.
Never dropping in pace and interest, this is a production to savour.