Moon Rabbit Rising | Little Eggs Collective with 25A

Image by Clare Hawley

The universe in incomprehensibly enormous and the energy flowing through it ancient and powerful. It operates through cycles and a continuously negotiated balance between light and darkness. In this reimagining of the legend of 后羿 (Hou Yi) and 嫦娥 (Chang’e) Little Eggs Collective finds joy and life in an early story of love, loyalty, and immortality.

Five celestial beings lay in slumber, awaiting their awakening. When the time does come, they burst forth into a bright, playful exploration of the universe and their power. But they eventually encounter opposition, a darkness that saps them each of their light and which nearly dims them forever. By bonding together again, returning to their early harmony, balance is restored and the celestial beings live on. In this devised movement piece, the performers Mym Kwa, Jon Lam, Jasper Lee-Lindsay, Monica Sayers, and Rachel Seeto with director Nicole Pingon have created a moving and enlivening take on an ancient legend. The original tale loosely tells the story of the origin of the moon as an opposite to the ten suns that scorched the earth and made it impossible to live but, like all good stories, it has many iterations as Jon Lam explained in an interview with Night Writes; the story is ever-changing with each new telling. In Pingon’s version, the focus on movement, repetition, and rhythm called on themes of curiosity, balance, and the restful restoration of family and connection.

The set design by Bill Chau was immediately striking for its modern sophistication with a golden abstract shape centre stage and the lights of Tyler Fitzpatrick’s back-lit lighting design obscured behind a gauzy curtain. This warm, cozy but chic design later became more disquieting as the lights turned cool and shadows took over the recesses of the stage corners. In either mode, the costuming from Esther Zhong proved versatile with simple white ensembles embellished with lace, using the symbolism of white as associated with both death and purity alongside lace as a mix of conservative tradition and transparency. Without appearing too old-fashioned, the gold, gauze, and lace of the production design worked as a node to the show’s old-world origins and the grandeur of these celestial beings. Christine Pan’s sound design and composition was similarly considered in its construction of a continuous soundscape that stretched through the cosmos with a mix of electronic and classical instruments that also incorporated Seeto’s live performance on a haunting flute. As is customary with Little Eggs Collective productions, each element of Moon Rabbit Rising felt curated not only in relation to the storytelling but in relation to the other elements of theatre-making and the possibilities alive in the form.

The performers guided the audience through their story with movement sometimes abstract and sometimes explicit. When the beings awoke, they garnered power from the golden surface which they were then able to manipulate and move around in a way reminiscent of Zen Buddhism and the conceptualisation of energy as continuous between matter. These early scenes were joyful and playful with the performers laughing and joking with a freedom that foreshadowed the approaching darkness. What was particularly effective about the ensemble’s performances was their balance of collective and individual with each bringing a unique style to the story. Sayers and Seeto stood out for their highly expressive faces and movements which were open and engaging whereas Kwa offered a more up-right and taut physicality that provided contrast and an element of traditional honour. Lam was an easy crowd favourite for his authentic reactions but his close interactions with Lee-Lindsay added a gentle, humble, and warm spirit to the group. The effectiveness of their story-telling was hard to pin-point and operated more like their humming vocalisations; a resonance that enveloped the entire performance.

Whether you’re already familiar with 后羿 (Hou Yi) and 嫦娥 (Chang’e) or similar folklore, Moon Rabbit Rising was a transportive experience through space and time into the heart of something elemental, celestial, timeless.

Moon Rabbit Rising ran at Belvoir’s 25A Downstairs Theatre from June 29th – July 10th

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