Into The Numbers, 4****, London

by Christopher Chen.

The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED to 27 January 2018.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 90 mins No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: William Russell 5 January.

A woman in the throes

This disturbing and powerfully acted play about the human rights activist and historian Iris Chang deals with the nervous breakdown which eventually overwhelmed her – she committed suicide at the age of 36 – clearly the result of her work on her first book, The Rape of Nanking, which dealt with the mass executions and rapes carried out by the Japanese in 1937. Her grandparents had escaped the massacres and she was inspired to research just what happened, interviewing survivors and unearthing a lot of material about the savagery of the Japanese soldiers. It seems to have affected her badly and the play deals with her relationship with her husband, the psychiatrist dealing with her nervous problems and shows her confronting ghosts from the past. The effect is chilling.

Elizabeth Chan is impressive as the tormented woman, while Timothy Knightley glides smoothly from being the man interviewing her after a lecture about her book, to Brett, her deeply anxious husband trying to make contact, and the psychiatrist resisting her demands to change her drug treatment. The stage is almost bare except for a lectern and hanging strip of lights which dim and blaze as the horrors of the genocide engulf Iris Chang’s mind and can obliterate the audience every bit as much as her mind is being overwhelmed unspeakable deeds. The impact on the audience is overwhelming.

The ghosts include the American missionary Minnie Vautrin, who set up a safe zone for the citizens, although it did not do much good, and who was also some time later to kill herself believing she had seen the devil at work, and a Japanese soldier doing what he had been trained to do – killing. Director Georgie Straight has handled an uncompromising piece with great assuance and Chan has responded with an immaculate and memorable performance.

Iris Chang: Elizabeth Chan.
Interviewer/Brett/Doctor: Timothy Knightley.
Nanking Victim Relative/Victim/Ensemble: Jennifer Lim.
Minnie Vautrin/Ensemble: Amy Nolloy.
Deputy Ambassador/Soldier/Ensemble: Mark Ota.

Director: Georgie Straight.
Set & Costume Designer: Isabella Van Braeckel.
Lighting Designer: Matt Cater.
Sound Designer: Benjamin Winter,
Associate Director: Quentin Beroud.
Movement Director: Amy Warren.

2018-01-08 10:02:49

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