A new play by Amy Ng
Finborough Theatre To August 6
118 Finborough Road,
London SW10 9ED
Box Office: 0844 847 1652
Book online at www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk
Runs: 1h 20 min without interval
Review: by Carole Woddis of perf seen Aug 4, 2016:
A complex issue opened up by the playwright and a sensitive team
Amy Ng’s impressive debut play takes us deep into the heart of one of the most hidden but pressing issues of our day. Cultural tourism. How many of us have indulged, wandering off beaten tracks, following dreams to find what we thought might be the ultimate destination: a Shangri-La?
When I was coming of age in the 1960s, Shangri-La, the road to Nirvana, and Tibet were all the rage for the young, part of the hippie and guru trail. I never quite made it to Shangri-La although I did reach that other nirvana, Machu Picchu in Peru. And the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca.
What did I expect to find? Perhaps it was the journey that mattered more than the destination. But did I ever stop to think of the impact I was making on the indigenous environment? I doubt it.
For Ng’s American traveller, Sylvia (a convincing Rosie Thomson), her search is about rekindling a burnt out marriage by finding strange Tibetan rituals. Later Thomson reappears as Hope Leahy, an adventuring Irish photographer who in encouraging a young village girl, Bunny’s interest in photography, produces an outcome only revealed in the play’s final moments:
On the way there, Ng throws several elements into the melting pot: China’s takeover of Tibet, its corrosive effect on its people; sustainable tourism and its own pitfalls; most of all, survival and the compromises required.
Ng writes amusingly about balancing western naivety against local pragmatism and the `authentic’ but too often, time sequences and flash-backs confuse and come over-loaded with polemic.
Nonetheless Charlotte Westenra’s beautifully cast production makes the very most of the Finborough’s tiny resources and succeeds in transporting us so that you can almost imagine being in villages above the tree-line and on the cusp of witnessing traditions that should probably remain unseen.
In the end, Shangri-La is actually very modern in the sense of Ng constructing a political parable about Tibet and China that is also about breaking taboos in order to move forward – a progress that will ultimately demand a heavy price.
Be careful what you wish for! It could cost you dearly.
A new play by Amy Ng
Bunny Mu: Julia Sandford
Nelson Wong: Kevin Shen
Sylvia Bass: Rosie Thomson
Karma Tsering: Andrew Koji
Hope Leahy: Rosie Thomson
Village Elder: Kevin Shen
Nima: Richard Chow
Designer: Yatkwan Wong
Lighting Designer: Hartley T A Kemp
Composer: Ruth Chan
Sound Designer: Josh Sneesby
Stage Manager: Rachel Middlemore
Producer: Matthew Schmolle
Associate Producer: Liz Pagett
Presented by Finborough Theatre and Yellow Earth Theatre
First perf as staged reading at Finborough as part of Vibrant 2014, Nov 5, 2014
First perf at the Finborough Theatre, London, July 12, 2016
For more info see: www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk