Words by: Miss SL Photography provided by the Arts Centre Melbourne
The curtains start to lift and a dramatic score commences. A handful of characters are on stage, slowly turning toward the audience as the screens offstage display the credits. Wang Zheng is Cho Cho, taking centre stage. She is powerful and strong yet you can see the fragility of her character, plagued with sorrow and pushed forward by hope. The story of the butterfly begins.
Through the next 80 minutes the audience is held captive in this half English, half Mandarin show. The concepts are confronting, thought provoking and sorrowful. Life, death, hope and loss are encapsulated by the tale of Cho Cho, a girl from Shanghai who is sold at the fragile age of fifteen by her Uncle and Aunty to an American Yankee named B.J. Pinkerton. In what was offered as a “clean contract”, Pinkerton marries Cho Cho knowing full well that she will only ever be a “temporary wife”. The family seem disillusioned that Pinkerton’s “American gold” will provide them with financial security for the years to come, not expecting Cho Cho to turn her back on them.
The story then explores the very real and very weak nature of Pinkerton’s character – a man who does not know what he wants – a man who runs away from the truth. Making fake promises of returning in the Spring, Pinkerton leaves his butterfly for three long years to remarry “a real wife. An American wife”, not knowing that he has left Cho Cho with a child.
The story of Cho Cho, her disillusionment and depression leaves the audience mourning the cruel injustice that is her life. The selfishness, weakness and cruelty of her family and Pinkerton result in the viewer self-reflecting for hours on their life and how those characters translate to someone we all know in our life.
Cho Cho is beautifully cinematic in the way it is delivered, and is running two more screenings at the Arts Centre Melbourne on the 5 & 6 October 2013 (2pm start). Tickets can be purchased here.
By Daniel Keene
Music by Cheng Jin
Directed by Peter Wilson