REVIEW: Year of the Tiger 虎- Hǔ (Basement Theatre)

Review by Jennifer Cheuk

[The Tiniest Threads Can Connect Us]

Year of the Tiger (虎- Hǔ) brings together six volunteer strangers and pushes them into the spotlight. These strangers are connected by a single thread: their zodiac animal. Coming from different backgrounds, cultures, countries, these people are bound by the simple fact that they are all tigers. Alice Canton explores the cultural ideas of the Chinese zodiac, interrogating each stranger until we know so much about them, they are no longer strangers at all. Canton seeks out their tiniest similarities and differences, asking about their fears and angers, their loves and anxieties.  

I found this to be a beautiful investigation of culture and people. Canton questions what it is that connects us when we are all so different. When we see the world through different perspectives and lenses, how do we connect? Canton celebrates how humans find similarities in differences. She shows the cultural roots that make us. Whether Chinese zodiac, or western astrology, Canton acknowledges the intergenerational concepts and histories that bind us together.

This performance is part of a new wave of reality-performances. Performances that find metaphors in reality rather than reality in imagined metaphors. The people on stage at Year of the Tiger (虎- Hǔ)  are ordinary non-actors who provide a real narrative and perspective on life. Year of the Tiger (虎- Hǔ) is aware that the people we pass in the street or sit next to on the bus carry stories that are just as interesting as the ones we can create. This performance is an earnest and honest conversation between stranger and stranger. I lost myself in the stories these strangers were telling, and I found I was looking for the tiger in each person on stage. 

But, Canton’s intention is not to find a universal truth. It is simply an investigation, a celebration of people and cultures and perspectives. There is no ultimate universality between each of these people. Canton acknowledges these tigers as being both similar and different all at once. Canton’s purpose to simply show how people connect, how we find similarities in amongst our differences. 

Year of the Tiger (虎- Hǔ) is a real and honest performance about what brings us together. In a world of judgement and discrimination, Canton’s performance is much needed. She reminds us that cultures bridge gaps, and that the tiniest thread of connection is all we need to strike up a conversation between strangers. 

Year of the Tiger (虎- Hǔ) plays Basement Theatre 10-21 March, 2020. 

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