At the Cultch Historic Theatre until Nov. 4
Tickets: 604-251-1363, thecultch.com
Like gold itself, Gold Mountain is undeniably beautiful. Liverpool’s Unity Theatre and Montreal’s Les Deux Mondes create some images that caused audible ripples of pleasure in the audience on opening night. Three conceptual designers (Michel Robidoux, Yves Dubé, Daniel Meilleur) and lighting designer Kathleen Gagnon make absolute magic in the theatre with scrims and silhouettes, sliding screens and projections. Gold Mountain is often breathtakingly lovely.
But somehow, despite all the production wizardry, the tale of David Yee (Eugene Salleh) and his father Yee Lui (David Yip) failed to stir my heart. The story (based on actor/playwright Yip’s family history) is really about David’s conflicted relationship with his father who travelled barefoot across China and eventually, as an overworked and underpaid seaman, to Liverpool to make his fortune. Britain, not Canada, was to be Lui’s Gold Mountain. And for a while he prospered, married David’s mother, a non-Chinese British beauty, but eventually became an opium smoker and dealer who gambled the family laundry business away. Lui’s epic journey is rich in detail but, just like his son David, I found Lui alternately admirable and infuriating.
Yip and Salleh are exceptionally fine and move easily through time and space with the mere putting on or removal of a hat. We have no doubt where the old man is—in his Chinese village as a boy, on the ship bound for England or involved in a violent strike in Liverpool. And both performers move with the gracefulness of dancers.
But overall, Gold Mountain (written by Yip and Kevin Wong) remained, for me, visually spectacular but emotionally as distant as China is from Vancouver. Chinese Canadians might experience it quite differently.
Nevertheless, the manipulation by Yip and Salleh of two giant fans—mirror images of each other—is a stunningly beautiful picture that will linger for a very long time.