Voltaire’s classic has been reimagined by Hong Kong troupe Ima Collab in a frenetic, condensed 40-minute show. Candide’s journey is cleverly brought to life by a small selection of props, a very physically expressive cast, and a soundtrack that dips into popular music. As suitcases become ships and tinfoil sheets waves, Candide tumbles, dances and fights his way to Eden, with the bumbling Pangloss in tow.
The story is brought up to date in interesting ways – for instance, the conflict with the Avars sees the cast listening to radio broadcasts of the Ukraine war as the audience enters. The cast also combines a Yeats poem set to music, Down By The Salley Gardens, with a traditional Chinese verse by Tao Yuanming; this picks up on Voltaire’s ‘one must cultivate one’s own garden’ philosophy. I thought the small ‘garden boxes’ tended by the cast was a nice touch.
There’s also some fourth wall breaking as the audience is asked what choices Candide might make or to share sad stories, though when I went everyone was a bit too shy to respond! The king of El Dorado as a Lennonesque figure singing Imagine to his devotees while wrapped in gold tinfoil was well-received, however. At times it can be hard to hear the dialogue but the plot could still be followed, and the sheer dynamism of the cast can’t help but sweep you along with the action.
An entertaining adaptation from a promising young company.