Chinglish is brought to us by David Henry Hwang. Not only is he a Tony award winner and Pulitzer finalist but he has had a successful sell out show at both The National theatre and The Park. To say his credentials set the bar high would be an understatement.
The story is that of miscommunication and cultural difference. We follow Daniel, an American salesman who is seeking to expand his business. He visits China in the hope of securing a lucrative deal with the help of his British consultant Peter. As he tries desperately to win the trust of his potential clients, he learns a valuable lesson about the differences between America and China.
It is evident that the director Andrew Keates has pushed the archetypal characters as far as they could possibly go. Gyuri Sarossy as Daniel is loud and brash as opposed to Duncan Harte’s Peter who is smug and eccentric. The comedy is at its height in scenes in which Daniel is entirely helpless. The additional members of the cast create the comedy and provide energy and pace. Minhee Yeo in particular has incredible comic timing and is a joy to watch. Windson Liong is hilarious as a moody teenager and Sui-see Hung is endearing as the incompetent translator.
However as much as you could say the comedy is drawn from being larger than life, I feel the really brilliant moments arrive in its subtlety. As the characters of Daniel and the vice chancellor are pushed to such extremes it makes it difficult to believe the affair they have. Throughout the play there are poetic moments which could perhaps land better if the action wasn’t as erratic. The exchange between Daniel and the vice chancellor about the definition of the word marriage is really beautiful and summarises the whole play. It shows how one word can mean something entirely different in another language and how this changes our interpretation. This is shown again within the scene between Peter and the chairman who talk about the legacy we leave behind. This is a very touching moment but within the context of the rest of the play feels disjointed.
The set design, translation and staging are brilliant and the actors move swiftly and effectively throughout the space. The minimal use of props allows us to truly focus on the action and become absorbed in the story. Ultimately, it is a brilliant piece of theatre however I feel some of the choices may have been lost in translation. For the more natural and touching moments to have the fullest impact we need to connect with the characters. I feel there is room for both the serious and the hilarious within the story, there just needs to be a better balance. Overall the play is enjoyable and funny and highlights that universal feeling of confusion in another country. The play is a breath of fresh air in a climate of serious and hard hitting theatre at the moment. This production has great potential and I am sure will continue to evolve throughout the run. 3/5
Review written by Amy McGivern.
Chinglish is currently showing at the Park Theatre until Saturday 22nd April 2017. For more information on the production, visit here…