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Against a backdrop of terror and war comes The Blue Elephant Theatre’s The Flying Roast Goose – the affecting tale of one woman and her winged companion told in a charming and often completely ingenious way.
Little delights and flashes of inspiration pepper the story, supplying a satisfying chocolate box of treats to feast on – just when one sweet vignette is fulfilled, another melts into its place.
Set just before and during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, the play follows the story of a happy go lucky Cantonese chef (Paula Siu) living in the city as her day to day life slowly turns from the gleaming chop of the chef knife to the dark stomp of Japanese soldiers. With such a rich and complicated subject to cover you might be surprised to learn that the Flying Roast Goose only has three cast members – but this in fact works to the play’s advantage. Whilst Siu stays constant in her role, actors Kristoffer Huball and Jane Crawshaw switch roles interchangeably, from silent beggars to outspoken soldiers and puppeteers to projectionists.
It’s a clever move that means the audience is always focused on the chef’s personal story but also that the production has space in the form of two actors to try out exciting new ideas. Beautiful little projections of a bustling Hong Kong are spotlighted on a billowing sheet, explosions pounding the streets and buildings are visualized by a wonderful slow motion flight of cups and plates controlled by the camouflaged cast. Little delights and flashes of inspiration pepper the story, supplying a satisfying chocolate box of treats to feast on – just when one sweet vignette is fulfilled, another melts into its place.
And what of the goose of the title? It’s not just some soldier’s supper. The aforementioned puppetry comes into play in the form of a fully formed goose puppet with snapping beak and extendable wings – and a Huball and a Crawshaw admirably sharing honking and waddling duties. The affection shared between both chef and pet goose is striking and at times surprisingly emotional, a credit to the entire cast’s hard work and physical theatre expertise. Particular credit must be given however to Siu – not just for her amazing facial expressions that one cannot fail to warm to, but also for her conception and development of the piece from a 10 minute performance some years ago to a fully fledged and very accomplished play today.
There are one or two small flaws – a character with a Welsh accent doesn’t quite work and feels a little out of place, one or two of the sequences feel a little overstretched – but in the sumptuous soup of the whole show, these are but a few grains of uncertainty. Siu has created an endearing snapshot of human adversity against the odds told in a very unique and personal way, that delights and surprises as much as it educates.