Trial of Love is a black comedy horror, loosely based on the Chinese story of Wang Kui Betrays Guiyung. Directed by Sally Jiayun XU, it’s a promising piece about dispelling mystic curses, fusing styles from Chinese and Japanese cultures. There are some strong performances, yet this production doesn’t quite feel like it has reached its full potential. It doesn’t quite grab you and explore the darker depths waiting to be unearthed within this subject matter. With a tighter script and better pacing, Trial of Love could be quite an exciting new bit of theatre.
When Archie (Sam Goh) realises his house and his wife (Seisha Butler) may be haunted, he turns to a Ghostbuster app to request an expert to do something about it. To his surprise, the Chinese Specialist is Annie (Rhyanna Alexander-Davis), a larger than life black woman who claims to have a unique connection between the supernatural world and our own. What unfolds is a tale with some fairly surprising plot twists touching on themes of love, betrayal and dishonesty.
Rhyanna Alexander-Davis’ performance as Annie bears an uncanny resemblance to the psychic in Ghost, portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg in the 90s film. She injects humour into her scenes based on her cutting glances and heightened facial expressions alone. Ning Lu also gives a stand out performance during her scenes as Ann. She graces the stage in a traditional Chinese dress and moves with such elegance, poise and precision. Lu has a hauntingly beautiful stage presence and brings her skill in dance to the fore.
The production at times incorporates physical theatre to punctuate the paranormal moments. Although these are well choreographed, the ensemble could have done much more to let their bodies succumb to the movements and heighten the drama. Similarly, some of the jokes leave you feeling luke warm. For a show which delves into such dark themes, there is arguably scope for the humour to be a lot more crude.
Trial of Love is staged by the theatre company, HiddenViewz, which has the admirable ambition of creating opportunities for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic artists in order to tackle the lack of diversity in the arts. Their latest production certainly delivers on this aim which feels refreshing to see. Although the show is not perfect, there are enough intriguing and encouraging elements to this production to make it well-worth seeing.
Trial of Love runs at the Bread & Roses Theatre from 10-14 September 2019 at the time of writing.
Photo Credit: Yi Liu (With actors Jiajie Zhou and Robin Khor)