The Empress and Me review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘plenty of rich detail’

The Empress and Me, Assembly George Square Studios, Edinburgh The Empress and Me, Assembly George Square Studios, Edinburgh

Based on the true story of Princess Der Ling’s remarkable and unlikely life, The Empress and Me is a one-woman show about the benefits of globalism and the short-sightedness of national insularism, told through the lens of a remarkable period in Chinese history.

Raised partly in Japan and France by a diplomat father and half-American mother, the ‘Princess’ (a title gifted to her in later life, not inherited) attended grand balls, spoke four languages and studied dance with Isadora Duncan before returning to China to be lady-in-waiting to an empress inside the walls of the Forbidden City.

In this gentle storytelling show from writer-director Ross Ericson and performer Michelle Yim, Princess Der Ling’s story is lovingly evoked with lashings of opulent detail, presumably taken from her (substantial) autobiographical writings.

It’s not a hugely theatrical show, and its ‘women beware women’ take on feminism is a misstep that nearly topples it, but Yim is a winning performer who accrues enough goodwill to overcome that. For its faults, The Empress and Me is an evocative tale of a remarkable life, and a perfectly pleasant way to spend an hour.

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Gentle one-woman show that evokes an interesting historical period with plenty of rich detail