by Tim Luscombe.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 11 December 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm & 18, 25 Nov 2.30pm (+ post-show discussion).
Audio-described 20 Nov 3pm, 23 Nov.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 November.
Aspects of China brought to light.
Tim Luscombe offers a sobering view of Communist China, with its capitalist leaning, where publicity around Bill Clinton’s visit or the Beijing Olympics (the G20 focus on Beijing pfrom Seoul came post-script) revealed a blaze of modernising and democracy, soon shuttered tightly-down after the media moved on.
Luscombe places a British racing-driver between the twin forces driving the nation. His multi-millionaire boss plans to ditch him for a Chinese driver, while buying a huge Buddha for his private collection; a small Buddha replica plays some part in the plot.
Tyler (Andres Williams, suitably at sea as complexities invade his world) starts concerned only about his forthcoming race, till he comes across human rights abuses, while suavely-dressed, confident westernised PR Liv (a neatly unlocatable name, matched by Lourdes Faberes’ confidently detached performance) serves any number of masters efficiently. But the heart of the conflict lies in brother and sister Zhi-hui and Pin-de.
Lucy Sheen’s Pin-de, a self-trained lawyer involved in human rights work, emerges from the country in worker’s uniform overalls to seek help for a sister threatened with execution on political charges. Her brother’s part of the new China. A journalist gaining access to lucrative contracts in return for supporting the government, he happily sets out on a hatchet-job, carefully researched, to displace Tyler in favour of a local racer.
Benedict Wong plays Sino-clown to manipulate Tyler, while showing serious hostility to Pin-de. Only at the end as, dressed-down, he enters what could be the same space as his sister – though even then they’re in opposite corners – in subdued lighting, is there the suggestion conscience has finally overcome commerce in him. By which time, as Luscombe doubtless wants us to note, the foreigners have taken the plane home
In the way of stage villains, Zhi-hui has more variety, energy and interest than Lucy Sheen’s remorselessly moral Pin-de. But both have a solidity that evades the visitors, especially functional capitalist Baz. And the brief Buddhist shrine scenes seem tacked-on. But Luscombe and his cast give clarity to the complexity of a country that’s put itself at centre of the world stage.
Zhi-hui: Benedict Wong.
Tyler: Andres Williams.
Liv/Buddhist: Lourdes Faberes.
Pin-de/Woman/Buddhist: Lucy Sheen.
Baz: Barry Stanton.
Director: Tim Luscombe.
Designer: Tim Meacock.
Lighting: John Harris.
Composer: Matthew Strachan.
Voice coach: Youyou Liu.
Assistant director: Anthony Lau.