Anna asks the King, ‘Chopsticks? Don’t you think knives and forks would be more suitable?’ And he responds ‘I make mistake, the British not scientific enough to know how to use chopsticks’. Somewhere amid the music and spectacle, The King and I throws a weighty punch at what philosopher Edward Said deems Orientalism. With promise of giant gold Buddhas, acrobatic dancers and a ten-piece orchestra, Leicester Curve’s lavish spectacle opens in Edinburgh this Christmas. But will the potentially striking message it carries get lost behind the glitter and gold?
Originally based on Margaret Landon‘s novel, Anna and the King of Siam, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s stage show opened in 1951 in Broadway where it won three Tony Awards. Set in Siam (Thailand) in the 1860s, feisty British governess Anna (Josefina Gabrielle) is hired to look after and teach the King of Siam’s (Ramon Tikaram) children. Their relationship is turbulent, and ultimately determined by the culture clash and conflict surrounding them.
The music – if you don’t already know it – will be reminiscent of the sweeping and grand score you’ll know from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s many other works; it’s easy to be carried away by the soundtrack and chances are you’ll be toe-tapping long after the curtain closes. A cross between Miss Saigon and The Sound of Music, this show is sure to delight all manner of musical theatre aficionados – especially those that love an un-happy ending. Is there a greater criticism of an ideology than to show that it’s a way of thinking that love can’t overcome? Some of the greatest literary heroes and heroines, some of the best stories, are those that defy the barriers presented by class or race or religious divide. The King and I is sixty years old this year. The original has something to say, are we now too wrapped up in big budgets to say it? Let’s hope not.