DAY 3: Best Play
Fighting with Punchdrunk’s Drowned Man for “Time Out’s most-hyped theatre of the year,” my expectations for Chimerica were understandably quite high. And completely shot through. From our arrival it was obvious how high everyone’s expectations were; we had been lucky enough to get some of the standing tickets that had been introduced towards the end of the run due to the play’s phenomenal success.
The set itself was reason enough to justify its popularity; a large white box upon a spinning pedestal creates most of the staging, with different rooms and scenes set inside or projected against the side, creating a truly international and diverse scenery in which the audience is taken through the dramatic events which are unfolded in front of them.
Flicking between America and China, the modern day and 1989, our protagonist is Joe Schofield; the photographer who took that shot at the Tiananmen Square protests. Following some odd, coded messages, Joe tries to track down the man in the image; the man who bravely stood in front of the tanks with nothing but a carrier bag to defend himself. His search for the truth introduces him to Tessa Kendrick, who profiles shoppers for credit card companies, reunites him with his old friend Zhang Lin, who has a refrigerator full of demons, a neighbour dying of the deadly smog and an admirable dedication to truth, and entangles him in the precarious world of illegal immigration, the nature of honour and hero, and the cutthroat business of the media and the cost of ‘a good story.’
Chimerica explores and exposes the misconceptions China and America have of one another, and uncovers a whole host of modern, topical issues; the nature finance and economic revolutions & collapse, corporate greed, surveillance states and governmental censorship. This may sound pretty heavy, but the theatrical staging, almost movie-like in quality
Runner up: The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas
Dennis Kelly’s highly anticipated stage play was another personal highlight of 2013. With a set that erred on the side of movie-esque with moving staging and flamboyant details, this was another of the year’s aesthetically pleasing whilst disturbingly moralising plays. When posed the question “goodness or cowardice?” Gorge Mastromas decides to take a path of corruption and engages in a series of increasingly disturbing lies, deception and fraud.
Ultimately, he has to pay the price for embroiling himself in such a web of greed, and the epically long performance suffers as he falls from grace. The build-up of evil is tantalisingly addictive to watch, Gorge’s fall from grace is an anticlimax, and almost tedious in comparison; though still worthy of a special mention.