Written by David Henry Hwang and directed by Andrew Keates this production has been much anticipated, particularly after Mr Keates’ open letter to The Print Room criticising the casting choices for their production of Howard Barker’s In The Depths Of Dead Love.
Daniel Cavanaugh (Gyuri Sarossy) is in China to secure a contract for his Ohio-based signage company to avoid further translation embarrassments for the planned state-of-the-art Arts’ Centre in Guiyong, a smaller town (only 4 Million citizens), in China. As we’re being told at the beginning of the play, the first rule when making business in China is also the last rule: always bring your own translator. Although by the end of the play, it seems the best solution would be to just learn the language oneself.
This lost-in-translation comedy with quick-fire dialogue keeps the audience on its feet as we’re discerning who is speaking whilst listening, and reading the subtitles as what is being said is not necessarily what is being translated onstage – a great farcical element!
It quickly emerges in Act I that no one in this play is exactly who they are portraying to be – and as Daniel is being told early on by his ‘consultant’ Peter (Duncan Harte), the real deals are made after the careful, and lengthy, cultivation of relationships. This allows us to discover deeper cultural differences and nuances of the Chinese language – and Daniel certainly bites off more than he can chew.
This is a fast-paced production with a cleverly designed set, which unfortunately does not move fast enough; the scene changes appear clunky and jarring at times, slowing the company’s superb acting down.
A truly stand-out performance was delivered by Candy Ma as Xi Yan; her story telling abilities come out during the more tender moments of her isolated struggle of choosing between her husband and the Westerner, who is offering her a break from conventions. Hwang’s writing of those monologues were beautifully crafted and illuminated the conflict between East and West that is bubbling away underneath the surface of this production.
By Alice Kornitzer
Chinglish, by David Henry Hwang, now running at the Park Theatre until 22nd April www.parktheatre.co.uk or 0207 870 6876.