THE GOLDEN DRAGON
by Roland Schimmelpfennig translated by David Tushingham.
Arcola Theatre (Arcola 1) 1-24 September.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 10, 17, 24 Sept 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
then Tour to 22 October 2011.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 August at Traverse Theatre (Traverse 2) Edinburgh.
Carefully-crafted demonstration that doesn’t come to the boil.
When Bertolt Brecht dismissed ‘culinary’ drama, this couldn’t have been what he had in mind, despite its setting – even if German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig had been born before 1967, eleven years after Brecht’s death. For this play, impressive as its originality and working-out are, resembles Brecht at his most determinedly arid.
And if Brecht’s influence fell upon much of late 20th-century British drama, including Joint Stock Theatre, it’s no surprise Dragon recalls Max Stafford-Clark’s 1979 production for his troupe of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine, a play about sex and power.
Churchill two acts apparently crossed a century, while characters played across sex, with roles split between the cast. Schimmelpfennig goes further, crossing species as an ant and cricket play out a story of sexual exploitation.
Characters here consistently play in opposition to their age and sex, as well as narrating, reporting or commenting on actions. They don’t point the moral, but clarify actions to lead audiences to the point.
A whole world of relations are displayed through a single location, one that’s both very specific and suggestive of a wider world: a restaurant offering Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese food.
In this place, one for a meeting of cultures or survival in foreign lands with cheap labour, events begin with an aching tooth – a nagging pain that will disrupt normality, pretty much as Brecht wanted his theatre to disrupt expectations.
And that tooth, eventually extracted, flies through the air causing localised mayhem, described in words and accompanying diagrammatic action of what might be a farcical scenario.
The play is consciously worked-through, and intelligently so. But it’s possible to follow the intellectual thread through its images without becoming deeply engaged. There are moments of humour in Ramin Gray’s stylistically appropriate production, which is acted with scrupulous coolness by the cast of ATC theatre company’s production (first seen at Plymouth’s Drum). But in the end, it seems like a clever demonstration, and though it demonstrates some important social points clearly, the danger is it’s unlikely to add much to a perspective on life for the people who are likely to go and see it.
A Man Over 60/Young Man/Asian Man/2nd Stewardess: David Beames.
A Young Man/Grandfather/Asian Man/Waitress/Cricket: Adam Best.
A Woman over 60/Granddaughter/Asian Woman/Ant/Shopkeeper: Ann Firbank.
A Young Woman/Man with the Striped Shirt/Asian Man with Toothache/Barbie-Fucker: Kathryn O’Reilly.
A Man/Woman in the Dress/Asian Man/1st Stewardess: Jack Tarlton.
Director: Ramin Gray.
Lighting: Stephen Andrews.
Sound: Alexander Caplen.
Music Arranger: Zenghui Qiu.
Assistant director: Nick Bruckman.
Associate designer: Natasha Piper.