Wild Swans at the Young Vic

Posted by Anthony Page

Jung Chang's best seller Wild Swans sells out short season at London's Young Vic

Wild SwansLast Friday I went to the press showing of Wild Swans at the Young Vic in The Cut near Waterloo. I had a double reason for going namely my best friend was in the Community Chorus (this means they don’t get paid but have a great time rehearsing and performing) and another good friend was in London for a stopover before going back to the States.

Wild Swans is based on the global bestseller of the same name, written by Jung Chang over thirty years ago, and has sold over thirteen million copies. It traces over 100 years of family history including the life of Jung Chang up to the late 1980s. 

The play brilliantly presents the story of the grandmother, mother and Jung Chang through the period covering the mid 40s through to the present day success of China. Grandmother was a concubine of a warlord and so was ‘privileged’ in the eyes of the Mao communists; mother marries one of the ‘new style’ local communist leaders who later falls foul of the Red Guard purges. Jung Chang suffers during this period while her mother and father are both imprisoned. She is finally able to travel to the West and go to university and the rest is history – successful author, wife and celebrity.

The staging of Wild Swans is superb and the scene change is astonishing  considering the compact nature of the Young Vic theatre and the resources available to the modest company. Innovation and audio visual techniques transports the audience through these turbulent years in China so effectively it’s not possible to be emotionally moved at the portrayal of the lives of the Chinese people through the early years of communism. 

It is easy to observe, and now fear, the success of the Chinese economy as it moves upward and onward in spite of the global recession. Wild Swans gives a reference point to the tyranny and injustice that helped it come to pass. It certainly had me wiping the tears away!

Anyone with tickets will have an enjoyable evening but those thinking of buying now will be disappointed as the limited season is already sold out. With luck one of London's theatre impresarios will transfer it to the West End – it certainly deserves it. For me it was the most enjoyable theatrical experience in years!

Wild Swans

Runs 13 April - 13 May 2012

Young Vic Theatre, London


Photos by Chris Nash

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