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The Mongol Khan - London Coliseum Review

Reviewed by Jess Boot-Cowie

The easiest way to sum up The Mongol Khan is cinematic. Visually, it is dazzling from the get-go: with an ensemble of 70 performers who move, speak and even breathe in absolute synchronisation, it would be hard not to be. On the raked stage of the London Coliseum, the dancers fill every inch of space, never crowding, never a toe out of line. 

Telling the fictional story of Archung Khan, The Mongol Khan is based upon the play, ‘The State Without A Seal’, which tells of the problems that face the nomadic state of the ancient Mongols. This marks the first time that The Mongol Khan has been performed in London, and has been adapted for the London stage by playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker, with translation from John Man. The play is performed in Mongolian, with English translations on closed caption units at the top and sides of the stage: you’ve got to be quick in order to read everything and not miss the action on stage. Traditional Mongolian Biyelgee dance takes centre stage in aiding the translations as well: every phrase is accompanied by an action, and this can prove especially beneficial when you are growing accustomed to reading the words. 

The show-stealer is the costumes. Bold Ochirjantsan has created traditional costumes and outfits that flow when the dancers flow, they bounce when the dancers bounce. They are one with the performers, and are yet breathtaking, and curiously metaphorical. Whilst most of the costumes do have masks, and this does limit your ability to see any of the dancer’s expressions, it is so in keeping with the culture and the traditions that it doesn’t matter: it would be stranger to have them without masks. David Gregory’s sound design, too, is worth acknowledging: to have the sound of the anguished, heavy breathing of a grieving mother echoing through the auditorium that the ensemble mimics with their bodies is a visceral image. 

For such a large ensemble, the main cast that tell the story is remarkably small, but are nothing short of extraordinary. Erdenebileg Ganbold has a demanding role as Archung Khan but commands the huge stage with a fiery depth. When he shouted in the second act, I physically started in my seat, such was the power of his voice, a startling contrast to when he was sobbing on the floor at the feet of the Queen Consort a few moments earlier. Uranchimeg Urtnasan as Tstetser, The Queen who is in over her head is enchanting, then heartbreaking, then devastating, and her counterpart, Gerel, the Queen Consort, played by Dulguun Odkhuucontrasts this with a gentle innocence – their strange contrast and Archung Khan’s differing relationships with them both is one of the most unexpectedly brilliant things about the play. 

The Mongol Khan is a spectacle in every sense of the word. It’s interesting, because in terms of plot, it’s actually really dark, with a couple of moments where there was a sprinkling of laughs. However, it’s bright, it’s dazzling, and it’s one of the grandest shows you’ll see in London this year – even if that’s just the number of performers on the stage!


The Mongol Khan plays at the London Coliseum until Saturday 2nd December. Tickets are available from

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