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Hundreds of Chinese school children to appear in Fringe extravaganza at the Playhouse

By | Published on Tuesday 11 August 2015

Wild Zebra

Over 400 Chinese school children are performing in Edinburgh this week in a series of shows under the banner of ‘Oriental Fairy Tales’, presented by the China Young Cultural Ambassadors programme. And alongside performances at the Acoustic Music Centre will be a very big show indeed, taking over the Edinburgh Playhouse for one night only on Thursday, 13 Aug.

That production is the ballet show ‘Wild Zebra’, originally created by one of the team behind the Beijing Olympic’s Opening Ceremony in 2008, and subsequently gifted to the Beijing Education Commission for exactly this kind of project. The Edinburgh performance of ‘Wild Zebra’ follows a London outing of the show later tonight.

“’Wild Zebra’ is a full ballet corps and a full symphony orchestra” explains the show’s UK Coordinator David Ferguson. “There are about 150 kids involved in all, and the production values are very high indeed. It is such a big show, we have had to scale it back a little because of the logistics of presenting it at the Edinburgh Festival – even when using the Playhouse – but it will still be very spectacular”.

Ferguson now lives in Beijing and has supported CYCA for a few years now, ever since it came talent-scouting at his son’s school, and also advised on the organisation’s last visit to the Festival. This time his role has involved not only liaising with the Edinburgh Fringe, but also another of Edinburgh’s summer festivals, the Military Tattoo.

“The head of CYCA, Jiang Tao, or Oscar, is a man who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘an ambition too far’” Ferguson tells ThreeWeeks. “About eighteen months ago he came to me full of enthusiasm: ‘One of my contacts at the Beijing Education Commission was at the Tattoo this year. He thought it was great and he wants to find out how he can get one of the top Beijing school marching bands into the show in a future year’”

“I explained gently to Oscar that the Tattoo is one of the most exclusive events in the world” Ferguson goes on, “and you don’t just phone up and ask if your school band can join in. But he kept on pestering and pestering me till eventually I agreed to phone the Tattoo office. I was put through immediately to their CEO – Brigadier David Allfrey – who proved how much I know about the world by expressing great interest in the idea, and offering to meet us on his next visit to Beijing. David already had plans in China and we have been working with him since then to help move things along”.

With that relationship ongoing, when the ‘Wild Zebra’ project came on the horizon earlier this year, Ferguson consulted Allfrey for advice and, as a result of those conversations, the children taking part in the Playhouse show will also cameo at the Tattoo this week, alongside one of the special guest groups performing as part of the event this year, the Lotus Dragon dancers from Changxing.

“The plan is that the kids will arrive in Edinburgh from London tomorrow lunchtime, and will then meet the Lotus Dragon team, choreograph and rehearse the joint performance in the afternoon, and stage it that evening. Speaking as someone who knows nothing about choreography and directing, it sounds like a total nightmare, but it’s a chance of a lifetime for the kids and one that’s too good to miss”.

After the Tattoo guest slot, ‘Wild Zebra’ will be staged at the Edinburgh Playhouse on Thursday night at 7pm. Plus look out for other ‘Oriental Fairy Tales’ productions at the Acoustic Music Centre this week each day at 6pm, including a performance featuring symphonic highlights of ‘Wild Zebra’ on Friday.