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Review: Forgotten at the Arcola Theatre

Ingenious use of soundscapes, song and dance in this tribute to the thousands of Chinese workers left out of the history books in the story of the First World War

02 November, 2018 — By ERIN COBBY

The cast of Forgotten. Photo: Jack Sain

DESCRIBED as a “new old Chinese story”, Forgotten pits traditionalism against modernism in the little-known tale of the 340,000 Chinese workers who came to support Allied troops in the First World War.

The narrative follows a family of opera performers, who are each drawn to support the war as a remedy for their problems: poverty, drug addiction or a chance to perform their opera around the world.

As this troupe become troops, the farcical nature of what they were promised becomes clearer. This is highlighted through exaggerated voice, costume and movement when the actors perform the opera that mimics the main action of the stage, emphasised by split screen.

We are treated to a hilarious explanation of the origins of the war by the Professor (Leo Wan) who, despite his best efforts, manages to confound his fellow soldiers, making the war seem as credible as the stories acted out in opera.

The play employs an amazing use of language, moulding together a wide range of insults that makes the English language seem dull by comparison.
The sometimes clumsy acting is held up by stunning source material and an ingenious use of soundscapes and recordings. The heavy use of song and dance is functional as well as effective, enabling this important story to make a lasting impression.

020 7503 1646


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