CHINGLISH; 4Star****, London, To 22 04

By David Henry Hwang.
4Stars ****

Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP to 22 April 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 5mins One interval.

TICKETS 020 7870 6876
Review: William Russell 29 March.

A Chinese meal which really satisfies

The timing of this very funny clever comedy could hardly be bettered what with the things we must do post Brexit. It makes clear that trade deals are far from easy, especially for companies seeking to make one in countries like China, one of our target lands, whose ways are not Western ways.

Daniel (Gyuri Sarossy) is a Cleveland businessman whose family company makes signs, the kind one sees in conference centres and the like directing people to loos, exits or cafeterias. He has come to a large provincial city in China seeking a deal which will save the firm’s bacon but he speaks no Chinese. He meets Peter (Duncan Harte) an expat teacher from Britain, who speaks fluent Chinese and claims to be a business agent with contacts. They meet the local minister and his deputy and at first much fun is made a of what the interpreter claims someone has said – Daniel’s “small family firm” becomes “small and insignificant and signs saying a pavement is slippery reads “To take notice of the safe; the slippery are very crafty.”

But Hwang has more serious things to say and things move on to how deals are made in China. The minister and his female deputy have very different agendas, there are ways of proceeding which have to be observed, and Daniel is literally in the lion’s den.

The result is a sharp and witty story for our times, proof that one has to understand not what a market needs so much as how the people who run that market behave and expect one to behave. Daniel, an innocent American abroad, could as easily have come from Birmingham or Aberdeen. In the course of securing the deal he has a passionate affair with the deputy minister, a gloriously incisive and sexy Xi Yan, falls out with Peter, one of the world’s losers nicely done by Duncan Harte, and discovers just what minister Cai, a pompous soul under the thumb of his wife and sister in law, played to the hilt by Lobo Chan, is up to behind the surface bonhomie.

There is a terrific set by Tim McQuillen-Wright and director Andrew Keates keeps events and a first rate cast moving briskly. Lots of it is in Chinese but what is being said is projected on a surtitle screen at the back of the set, part of the fun. So park yourself in The Park and learn a lesson or two among the laughter.

Cai Guoliang: Lobo Chan.
Peter Timms: Duncan Harte.
Miss Qian/Prosecutor Li: Siu-see Hung.
Bing/Judge Geming: Windson Liong.
Xi Yan: Candy Ma.
Daniel Cavanaugh: Gyuri Sarossy.
Zhao: Minee Yeo.

Director: Andrew Keates.
Designer: Tim McQuillen-Wright.
Lighting Designer: Christopher Nairne.
Sound Designer: James Nicholson

2017-03-31 14:25:36

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