In this joint Sydney and State Theatre Companies’ production, play write, Sue Smith tackles with some aplomb the growing relationship between Australia and its new dominant trading partner, China. Covering a 25 year period from immediately before the Tiananmen Square massacre to now, we follow the lives of Chinese student, Lian (Ursula Mills) and Aussie bloke, Dylan (Tim Walter) whom she first casts eye upon when he is stark naked up a flag pole demonstrating at Sydney Uni.
From there, we visit their lives when they spasmodically intertwine, as she develops as a business person and he as a Greens activist that sees him holding a position of great influence in the Australian Senate.
Mills is masterful as she portrays the complex Chinese personality, part shy and withdrawn, part schemer and opportunist but always uncomfortable giving up the intricacies of her homeland to wholly a handsome man that she seems to both adore and loathe in equal portion. Walter is equally convincing straddling the major change in his life from unregistered radical to the respectable and responsible middle-aged man he has become.
The set is an expanse before crumpled paper walls. Scene changes come with the writing on them in black paint the various years of the moment which writing then magically disappears by the time the next rolls along. DJ Trip provides a thankfully understated sound track to the action while Nicholas Rayment’s lighting is similarly spot on as scenes move from the great outdoors, to the intensity of a press conference and the red glow of an intimate Chinese restaurant.
My only grumble is with the closing couple of scenes in which director Geordie Brookman seems to strive to bring a closure and a rounding out to the stories of our two players. Perhaps they are simply unnecessary – maybe leaving the audience to ponder and debate the motives in the car home would have sufficed.
As good as the two actors are the star in this is the play itself with Morris in top form in crafting a story of cultural intrigue in a very contemporary and Australian context. With the small and the large of one confused and misinterpreted by the other, we can extrapolate the challenges of the broader inter-national dialogue that is now such a massive and current part of this country’s being.
Kryztoff Rating 3.5K