Welcome to the next generation vacation slideshow. No longer relegated to the dens and living rooms of suburban America, William Yang elevates the traditional family travelogue to an art as he tells the story of the people he met and places he visited during his four trips to his ancestral home, China.
There is something immediately likeable about Yang as he stands on stage with the photos from his various trips to China on huge screens behind him. As the photos appear, he regales the audience with stories that are at times informative and at others, very funny.
Yang’s photos have an almost retro quality to them, but given they are taken over a twenty year period this probably shouldn’t be too surprising as I am sure, gasp, some were captured on non-digital cameras. I couldn’t help but admire his everyman photo style – the photos were all nicely composed without being fussy and with few exceptions stayed away from being too “arty”.
Accompanying Yang is Nicholas Ng on the ehru (a sort of violin) and other traditional Chinese instruments, providing a mood or accenting a point during Yang’s many stories. I did feel that Ng was underutilized but what he did play was quite beautiful and with an obvious talent.
Yang’s style tended towards a single level – allowing the story to create the emotion in his audience rather than having his voice do the work for us. Theatricality here is almost non-existent but when you have interesting stories to tell that isn’t always necessary. I did find myself wishing for a more satisfying conclusion to some of his stories though as a few had a tendency to just drift off before he would move on to the next.
When I interviewed Yang earlier this month I got the impression that being gay, although touched on, didn’t play a huge part in his show. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this was not the case. While his sexuality certainly isn’t a focus, Yang naturally lets the fact he is a gay man flow nicely through his stories when appropriate.
In the end I walked away entertained, but more importantly I felt like I shared in Yang’s journeys and learned something along the way.
2-6 February 2010 @ 7:30pm
Frederic Wood Theatre, University of British Columbia
Tickets are $24-$30 each available by calling the Theatre UBC box office at 604.822.2678. Visit http://www.pushfestival.ca for more information.