Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Forbidden City: Portraits of an Empress

On our rare date (possibly our first this year apart from attending a friend's wedding), Lyndon and I watched Forbidden City at the Esplanade Theatre.

The plot was well-thought. The Empress Cixi tells her story, which could possibly dispel the well-known notion that she was a dragon lady and the rumour that she had killed her son. However, a too-pragmatic journalist twisted her tale and further fuelled the negative impression that people had of her.

I was enthralled from beginning to end. I empathised with Cixi's loneliness when the Emperor sought a new concubine after she became pregnant. I experienced her agony when her newborn was forcibly taken away from her by the courts and she was helpless. I teared with joy as she reunited with her young son and as she brought him to the Emperor to be ordained king. It was painful to see her son turn rebellious and being led by his cousin to visit brothels. I could not imagine how the Empress Dowager felt as she wiped her son's brows with a handkerchief, while his life slipped away with syphillis. I was incensed when George the journalist published the story of her life in an irresponsible way, writing what he felt people wanted to hear, rather than the truth. I was even more indignant that George had used Kate to reveal the Empress' story and betrayed her trust in him.

Besides the story, I was impressed with the tuneful songs and apt instrumentation. All the actors sang soulfully and angelically and I wished I could sing like them. Not being able to sing well is one of my greatest banes and I always admire people who have been bestowed that talent.

Lyndon and I went back to tell J about the history of China during the period when Empress Cixi had control as well as the plot of the story. It was an afternoon well-spent indeed.

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