by Lucy Kirkwood.
Almeida Theatre Almeida Street Islington N1 1TA To 6 July 2013.
Mon-Sat7.30pm Mat Sat & 5, 19 June 2.30pm.
Audio-described 22 June 2.30pm (+Touch Tour 12.45pm).
Captioned 11 June.
Post-show Discussion 19 June 7.30pm.
Runs: 3hr One interval.
TICKETS 020 7359 4404 (24 hr).
Review: Carole Woddis 29 May 29.
Complex play in admirable production.
Is Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica a conscience-pricker of a play, or a tease? The jury is ou,t but what it lacks in absolutism it makes up for in ambition, detail and a production of the highest order.
Kirkwood has her sights on many issues, one of which is marketing consultants searching to understand the Chinese mind, to sell them western products. That China may yet prove ultimately impervious is only one of many questions she poses along with examining the symbiotic nature of Chino-US relations, photo-journalism as obsession, not to mention love, human relations and the whole damn thing.
Kirkwood’s is only the latest to explore the geo-political phenomenon that is the rise of Chinese influence. In Lyndsey Turner’s visceral Headlong production – Es Devlin produces a dizzying set of revolving boxes, splashed with video projections – there are echoes of Robert Lepage and Simon McBurney’s recent Shun-kin as we switch seamlessly from public to private spaces.
For, integral to Chimerica is the totemic photo of the young man standing in front of the rolling tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Like the emblematic Vietnam war picture of the young naked girl running from napalm bombing, the image of the tank-resisting young man resonated round the world.
In dialogue that fizzes and explodes, we see young American photographer, Joe, covering the story for an American newspaper (Trevor Cooper never better as his cynically iron-plated editor) and, twenty years on, pursuing an insatiable curiosity to find out what happened to `tank-man’ alongside the story of his Chinese activist friend, Zhang Lin (Benedict Wong, following his impressive Ai Weiwei at Hampstead).
The action flows backwards and forwards between the two capitals as liberal-minded Joe obsessively seeks out clues, encounters Claudie Blakely’s marketing consultant – a clash of opposites if ever there was one – and the Chinese American diaspora in the run-up to the last American Presidential election.
As much as Chimerica investigates cultural dissonances, it also brilliantly interrogates journalism and news values in today’s 24-hour digitally enhanced world. With a fantastic supporting cast, Kirkwood, Headlong et al have produced a seething, disturbing play for our times.
Tessa Kendrick: Claudie Blakley.
Joe Schofield: Stephen Campbell Moore.
Liuli/Jennifer: Elizabeth Chan.
Michelle/Mary Chang/Deng: Vera Chok.
David Barker/Peter Rourke/Paul Kramer/Officer Hyte: Karl Collins.
Frank/Herb/Drug Dealer: Trevor Cooper.
Susannah Schofield/Martha/Doreen/Maria Dubiecki: Nancy Crane.
Mel Stanwyck: Sean Gilder.
Feng Meihui/Ming Ziaoli: Sarah Lam.
Young Zhang Lin/Benny: Andrew Leung.
Zhang Wei/Wang Pengsi: David K.S Tse.
Zhang Lin: Benedict Wong.
Director: Lyndsey Turner.
Design: Es Devlin.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Video: Finn Ross.
Movement: Georgina Lamb.
Costume: Christina Cunningham.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Mandarin coach: Bobby Xinyue.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Choon Ping.
World premiere of Chimerica at the Almeida Theatre London 20 May 2013. A co-production with Headlong Theatre Company.