The Mongol Khan ★★★★ London Coliseum | Nov 17 - Dec 2, 2023

The Mongol Khan is a genre-defying spectacle that incorporates song, dance, puppetry and drama. Created by Mongolia's leading playwright the epic story tells the tragic tale of a leader who is deceived by his wily counsellor into thinking that the latter's son is actually Khan's heir, while the true son is being ignored. Westerners will probably be thinking of Shakespeare's Lear and Iago but there's a dash of The Comedy of Errors, and also a hint of Oedipus Rex. With a cast of over seventy, there are some amazing costumes, spellbinding choreography and clever special effects. It all adds up to an evening that really takes one back to the origins of theatre when people expected a feast of entertainment for their money and would have felt cheated by the contemporary predilection for two acts squeezed into about two hours. In fact, the current production has apparently been abridged for Western tastes and this does take away a bit from the majesty of the piece. Its epic sweep sometimes seems a little attenuated and its narrative arc truncated. This is a huge story encompassing large themes of ambition, sacrifice and duty, and this production and the troupe do it full justice. The archetypal nature of the characters is wonderfully depicted by the strong cast, and the second act is dominated by Erdenebileg Ganbold's representation of Archug Khan. Also notable are Bold-Erdene Sugar as his nemesis and Uranchimeg Urtnasan as Tsetser, the queen. Both create larger-than-life characters who rise to the monumental nature of the work. Mongolia is a vast sprawling country with an awe-inspiring landscape and The Mongol Khan does a splendid job of expressing its essence.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Katja Ogrin

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