The Red Dress - Review

Reviewed by Regi Su

Showing at the State Theatre for a limited time is The Red Dress, a love story from Southern China, told through dance and drama. With elements of folklore and traditional customs, this performance is a dynamic hybrid of tradition and the contemporary and is visually breathtaking.

Through dance, the love story is told symbolically and beautifully. Visually, there's so much movement, so much to look at on stage, especially with props and detailed sets. The intricacy of the choreography meant that at times, the performance was a little chaotic. This vibrancy struck a balance, however when the chorus came together in synchronisation and danced as one with levels and layers. The ensemble danced with such passion, energy, precision and timing that they weren't unlike a well-oiled machine. Depending on the mood of the scene, the music fluctuated between a contemporary soundscape and traditional instrumental music. The clever choreography matched these to create a holistic experience.

To cater to both an Eastern and Western audience, the performance makes use of visual commentary to help explain some of the cultural customs presented. This helped as an aid, however I think the story was carried well enough by the dancers and the chorus. There was a lot of symbolism, through colour, sound and lighting, which made some moments incredibly poignant. Commendation to the protagonist for her grace and elegance in classical dance.

I think the second half was more engaging, because rather than being a confusion of tradition and contemporary music and dance, it was a seamless fusion. Moments of deep emotion and yearning were held for just long enough to be utterly breathtaking, so when the atmosphere was broken by the chaos of the chorus, at least we had time to the leap too, (in contrast to the first half which seemed a little difficult to connect with at times). One scene in particular was purely stunning. The Lotus Lanterns scene in the second half saturated the stage in a soft pink lighting creating a very dreamlike state. The stage was filled with women in silk dresses that floated as they twirled, in various gradations of pastels.

The Red Dress felt like a cultural immersion and was an interesting insight into traditional customs, folklore and storytelling. The classic love story of lovers parted, created a universal base point from where the unique theatrical experience was created.