The Mongol Khan at the London Coliseum
The various elements of stage entertainment and honest reflections of culture and history don’t always go hand in hand. Though this story is in fact an entirely fictional one surrounding a fabricated dynasty within it, The Mongol Khan is set among the very real Hunnu nomadic people, predecessors of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan et al. The production sets out a fascinating and entirely impressive tale: the tragedy of Archug Khan, based on the Shakespeare-esque work of 20th century Mongolian playwright, Lkhagvasuren Bavuu. Duplicity, betrayal and honour all get a look in, but the predominant theme is that of a ruler’s responsibility and the sacrifices they might have to make for the good of their empire and people.
This production is purely and earnestly epic. Everything is big, loud, colourful and dramatic. The huge Mongolian company of artists shine with a fearlessly commanding presence, new and refreshing to the West End stage. The script is performed in Mongolian with a typically simplified English translation presented as surtitles, an effective artistic decision for retaining both the show’s original company and a great deal of cultural authenticity.
The aesthetic backbone of this piece is two-fold: a simple yet immaculate set reflective of the expanse of the great plains of the Steppe, and a visually stunning, usually writhing mass of people. A few dozen dancers, stunt performers and contortionists combine through inventive choreography to illustrate and exaggerate the story and the actions of its characters.
The Mongol Khan might verge on a faultless success were it not for one particular aspect: its lack of cohesion. There is a jarringness to the pacing of this piece, and particularly within the transitions of the otherwise engaging feature-length score. Nevertheless, director Hero Baatar and his company have done London a favour bringing this vibrant and special work across the world from Ulaanbaatar.
Images: Katja Ogrin
The Mongol Khan is at the London Coliseum from 17th November until 3rd December 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.