I was lucky to catch the last performance of Along, although the piece will continue to tour internationally. Billed as a Kung Fu contemporary circus from Hong Kong, this performance was actually much more than that although this did not become apparent at first.
For the first 30 minutes we watched a display of remarkable acrobatics, Kung Fu, parkour and some almost balletic sections, with only the more humorous moments not fully connecting with the audience. The cast of six men had their faces painted like Cantonese opera performers but wore black skinny jeans as their only costume. This combination, together with the Western music score, seemed to sum up the position of Hong Kong as a bridge between West and East.
And then, after about 30 minutes, everything changed. After bowing to the audience and accepting their applause, one of the group stepped forward and spoke, in halting English but with great emotion, about the current situation in Hong Kong. Explaining that this was something they could not ignore when they are away from their home at such a time, he begged us to stay and watch a video of what is happening.
The video that followed left the audience in stunned silence, even if they had seen something of the content on television. To see it in this context, in the company of people for whom it is life-threatening, was both salutary and sobering. The images of police violence, threatening politicians and massed protestors spoke volumes.
Even more stunning was what followed, as the cast reappeared, this time wearing yellow safety helmets and gas masks. They crouched down on the stage, clinging together for support, with one person climbing to freedom on the backs of others. It was a wholly successful example of making a point through dance and movement which will stay with the onlookers for a long time.
The Edinburgh Fringe is a great place to see dance, circus and all other performance styles; but few of the overtly political shows on offer will have come even near the impact of this unforgettable piece. Although the Edinburgh run is over, the cast are continuing to tour and will do much to take their important story to those who may not know enough about it.