Ķīn ★★★ National Theatre | January 12 - 27, 2024


This amazingly energetic piece of physical theatre is inspired by the experience of Director Amit Lahav's grandmother. Her family, like so many other refugees, fled the oppressive experience of one country for the hope of a better life in another. Lahav universalises that immigrant struggle of rejection and forced assimilation in a vigorous performance that has a stilted and beguiling choreography which incorporates folk dancing and moves from modern dance. There is an almost marionette-like quality to the motions of the cast as they assume their roles in what proves to be an ongoing game of successive waves of immigrants trying to dance to the rules of an unsympathetic bureaucracy. The piece eschews reliance on speech, reflecting the lack of communication and empathy between the insiders and those who are trying to cross the border into the perceived land of opportunity. The immigrants, singled out by a yellow stripe, come to represent every group that have ever been cast as "the other" and their oppressors are stereotypically unsympathetic. While the plight of the characters is affecting and the movement is expertly executed, ultimately the former lacks nuance and the latter becomes repetitive. Ķīn's point is powerful, but it is undermined by a rather unfocussed narrative, plus a multiplicity of characters and a simplification of its thesis. On the other hand, Chris Swain's lighting beautifully accentuates the dichotomies of the piece and the strobe sequences are particularly effective, while Dave Price's score has a wonderfully eclectic quality that reflects the different threads of multicultural experience. Ķīn proves to be a moving experience that succeeds in humanising an issue that is straight out of the headlines.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo © Mark Sepple

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