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Catchy monkey for a thrilling night out

PUBLISHED: 14:11 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:42 25 August 2010

BALANCING ACT: Performers in the magnificent show.

BALANCING ACT: Performers in the magnificent show.

PHOTO: MARIE-NOELLE ROBERT

IF IT'S a visually staggering and musically exciting show you re after, the re-telling of a 400-year-old Chinese tale, Monkey: Journey to the West, is for you, writes Lizzie Thornton.

IF IT'S a visually staggering and musically exciting show you're after, the re-telling of a 400-year-old Chinese tale, Monkey: Journey to the West, is for you, writes Lizzie Thornton.

Whether you have prior knowledge of the story or you are more interested in ex-Blur singer and Gorillaz star Damon Albarn's score, or if you just love dance and acrobatics, this show will leave you dazzled.

It begins with the birth of our unlikely hero, the Monkey King (played by Cao Jiangtao), who hatches from a stone egg on the Mountain of Flower and Fruit which crashes down the mountain to an electric, climactic opening song.

He is petulant and greedy and it is this that starts him on his journey as he searches for eternal life, powerful weapons and other riches.

On the first half of his journey, there are many fight-scenes and airborne battles between colourfully dressed warriors defending their treasure from Monkey in capoeira-type battles.

But he meets his match when he crosses the all-powerful Buddha who imprisons him but gives him the opportunity to redeem himself by travelling to India with the young monk Tripitaka to bring the Holy Scriptures back to China.

A nifty set design adds to the ambiance of the show with effects such as creating an underwater world by projecting sea creatures on a gauze at the front of the stage.

One of the most impressive parts of this 'circus-opera', as it was billed, was the mind-boggling bendy women at the Heavenly Peach Banuet, who contorted their bodies to an uncomfortable degree (for me, not them that is).

Apart from a technical glitch that meant we lost the subtitles (the whole musical is sung in Mandarin), displayed at either side of the stage, the production was flawless.

This is a masterful, unique production and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see something just a little bit different.

The show is at the O2, Greenwich, and runs until December 5.

Tickets are from £31.64 to £73.45 and are available from Ticketmaster on 0844 847 1665 or Ticketline on 0870 444 5556.

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