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Chinglish at Park Theatre has ‘intrigue, romance and laughs’

Chinglish - Candy Ma and Gyuri Sarossy (courtesy Richard Davenport for The Other Richard) 2
Chinglish – Candy Ma and Gyuri Sarossy (courtesy Richard Davenport for The Other Richard)

Written by David Henry Hwang and previously performed in New York, this production is the UK premiere of Chinglish and is a play with a difference; half the dialogue is being spoken in Mandarin with (often funny) translated surtitles.

The play tells the story of an American businessman, Daniel Cavanaugh (Gyumri Sarods)’s attempt at “doing business in China”. In the first scene we see Daniel presenting at a business forum in Cleveland Ohio. The slides
shown in this presentation give us a taste of what is to come, i.e. pictures of mistranslation of Chinese into English.

This scene ends with Daniel saying “when doing business in China you need a good translator!”. We then go back a couple of years to when Daniel travelled to Guiyang in South West China. Once there he meets consultant Peter Tams (Duncan Harte) who is actually more of an English teacher than a business adviser. Daniel is also advised that the best way of doing business there was guanxi (gwan-she), which means forging close relationships. With this in mind he and Peter attempt to persuade the Cultural Minister and his assistant to grant his company, Ohio Signage, the contact to provide signage at Guiyang’s new Cultural Centre. It is when the two of them go to meet with the Minister who has a translator in tow that the fun starts.

Lobo Chan gives a good performance as the put-upon Minister (Cai), whilst Duncan Harte and Gyuri Sarossy work
very well together as Daniel and Peter. Special mention here for Harte who manages to deliver his lines equally
well whether it is in Mandarin or English. Candy Ma is excellent as the assistant minister (Xi Yan) portraying both Xi’s hardnosed and vulnerable sides well. Siu-see Hung (Miss Qian/Prosecutor Li), Windsor Lion (Bing/Judge
Geming) and Minhee Yeo (Zhao) show great comic timing whilst managing to delivering lines including “Here’s why we are worth the money” which translated to “he spends money recklessly!” with deadpan faces as the hapless translators. Hung and Liong also give competent performances as a prosecutor and a Judge, respectively.

Tim Quillen-Wright’s, set, which on first view looks like a large vertical ‘shades of brown’ chessboard positioned at the rear of the stage, is brilliant. By the simple opening of a square or two the scene moves from lecture hall to café/ restaurant to office to hotel room and even a court room and each scene change (and there are a few) are
seamlessly done.

David Henry Hwang’s script is witty. Andrew Keates’ direction is well paced and in keeping with the piece. Chinglish is well worth going to see. It has intrigue, romance and laughs whilst also being informative about Chinese customs and way of life and the difference between life in the East and West.

4 stars

Review by Karen Pond

Daniel, an American, wants to open up China for his business. There are only three things standing in his way: he can’t speak the language, he can’t learn the customs, and he’s falling in love with the one woman he can’t have.

Tony award-winning and Pulitzer Prize finalist David Henry Hwang returns to Park Theatre following the sell-out success of Yellow Face (Park Theatre 2013, National Theatre 2014), with the European premiere of his Broadway hit comedy.

Hwang’s hilarious comedy about the misadventures of miscommunication explores the modern difficulty of doing business between East and West.

Acclaimed director Andrew Keates (As Is, Dessa Rose Trafalgar Studios) makes his Park Theatre debut.

Cai Guolian – Lobo Chan
Peter Timms – Duncan Harte
Miss Qian/Prosecutor Li – Siu-see Sung
Bing/Judge Geming – Windson Liong
Xi Yan – Candy Ma
Daniel Cavanaugh – Gyuri Sarossy
Zhao – Minhee Yeo
Written by David Henry Hwang
Director – Andrew Keates
Designer – Tim McQuillen-Wright
Lighting Designer – Christopher Nairme
Sound Designer – James Nicholson

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes including interval.
Plays: 22 Mar – 22 Apr 2017


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