Gateway Theatre Pacific Festival in association with Sky High Productions Ltd.

Travel with Mum by Cheung Fei Fan, music by Frankie Ho

Dates and Venue September 15, 2017 at 8pm, September 16, 2017 at 2pm & 8pm | Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond

Director Chan Man Kong Rensen Costume Design Mo Ka Man Lighting Design Yeung Tze Yan & Lai Tze Yu Mask Design Kwong Hon Pan Musicians Chung Sai Ying - Percussion, Huen Chun Tat Alfee - Guitar, Wong Sum Yin - Harmonica, Yeung Lai Sze - Singer

Reviewer John Jane

Most of us are acquainted with the film genre in which the protagonists set out on a road trip, only to have their personal perspective on life altered as a result. However, few (if any) have undertaken such an epic journey at the age of 74. Furthermore, Wang (given name) not wanting to take the easy route remodels a tricycle and takes along his 99-year-old mother on the journey across China. Filial devotion to his mother may be his prime motive, but one suspects, not the only one.

Chan Man Kong Rensen and Ngai Yee Shan Jo who play the son and his mother respectively are actually husband and wife (Jo Ngai looks about 70 years younger than her character) and are co-founders of the Nonsensemakers Theatre Company based in Hong Kong.

The entire cast wear character masks and perform in bare feet – considered to be quite common in Chinese theatre. The dialogue is spoken completely in Cantonese, which may seem strange considering the origin of the main characters is Heilongjiang, the northernmost province of China’s Northeast region where Mandarin is the native language.

Chan and Ngai are primarily physical performers. Chan spends much of the time on stage running in circles to simulate distances pedalled on the tricycle. Ngai is especially captivating as the centenarian (who reaches her one hundredth birthday midway through their journey). Her gait is lumbering, but her spirit is unburdened even when the journey becomes somatically challenging. Ngai seems to capture the core of an elderly woman who looks at everything as if seeing it for the first time.

English translations are displayed on television monitors at stage left and stage right. Unfortunately the subtitles didn’t always keep pace with the brisk dialogue. A small point, since the acting is extraordinarily visual.

There may be those who might consider Travel with Mum (or Mama ) too cloying, but if it makes us think and even laugh about our own mortality – that’s just fine - the audience loved it.

© 2017 John Jane