The Most Beautiful Woman in the World @ Barons Court Theatre

9 – 15 April, 2018

by Chang-jie Zhang
Directed by Xinxi Du

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We open to a harried looking writer explaining that his masterpiece is not finished. He unveils the characters from under white sheets and we’re away on the epic tale that is The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.

We follow a man who hates mushrooms so much he gains superhuman strength and goes on murderous rampages (stay with me). The cunning King decides to use this to his advantage, telling the Warrior that all the King’s own enemies are sending him mushrooms. Once the Warrior has been successful, the King adopts him and sets about his ruin. However, the King’s wife – the Most Beautiful Woman in the World – is swayed by the Warrior’s goodness.

The whole play seemed a little bizarre. The storyline was good and asked the right questions for the day (what with the King maintaining facades and engineering truths over honest leadership) but I don’t think the story earned the Warriors massive emotional shifts or the man with a painted-on-moustache playing ‘the most beautiful woman in the world.’ Throughout, I found myself wanting the entire production – actors and scenery alike- to take on a heightened, farcical nature or to all take on a natural, down to earth realism. However, the actors jumped between the two, at some points jarringly so.

Kyle Gardiner was a stand out as the King. He was cunning and vivacious onstage and is certainly an emerging talent and one to watch. Chang-Jie Zhang played the writer onstage, while also being the actual writer of the play. He has clearly included some of his Chinese roots in the story’s structure. Onstage, I found that he got lost slightly in the cavernous theatre. Baron’s Court Theatre has archways and crevices to navigate and unfortunately at times, he trapped himself behind these and we lost most of his performance. Seth Kruger played the moustached Most Beautiful Woman in the World. He is another that I felt needed to choose to either farce or naturalism. Finally, Robin Khor Yong Kuan gave a respectable performance as the Warrior. His performance was fantastically physical; frightening as the Warrior, and innocent as the Prince-Warrior.

This play has a lot of potential. It did make me laugh. I feel that with an edit and a clearer style on stage, we wouldn’t stop laughing.

 

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