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Review: Chinglish at Park Theatre

International business – and pleasure – in this lighthearted Sino the times

06 April, 2017 — By Catherine Usher

Minhee Yeo in one of her many roles in Chinglish. Photo: Richard Davenport

Anyone who has spent time in a foreign country, in which people speak English with varying proficiency, will find much to enjoy in playwright David Henry Hwang’s lighthearted look at international business, and pleasure.

American businessman Daniel, the boss of a Cleveland signage company, heads to China to offer his services creating English signs to be used alongside Chinese ones, which provide an accurate translation. The fact that Daniel speaks no Chinese himself doesn’t hamper his ambition and dialogue ensues in which, for most of the time, Daniel doesn’t have much of a clue what’s going on.

Gyuri Sarossy is a delight as the out-of-his-depth businessman, who employs various tactics to achieve his goal. Unless Chinese speakers, the audience travels along Daniel’s baffling journey with him. Translations of the Chinese dialogue spoken throughout are projected as subtitles above the stage, so the audience has to continually work to tap into the comedy fully.

Initially all about working relationships, the tone of the play changes when Candy Ma’s Xi Lin makes a move to relax the professional boundaries. The seduction scenes are wonderfully witty, but there is a hard edge to Xi Lin’s behaviour that signifies something rather more troubling.

Ma savours the complexity of Xi Lin’s character with relish, authoritative and harsh one moment, vulnerable and emotional the next. Minhee Yeo also demonstrates her versatility in a number of supporting roles, but her disinterested waitress and enthusiastic interpreter are the most memorable.

There are flashes of brilliance, but although the entire cast is strong, the production’s content is rather flippant and frothy and – much like businessman Daniel – the audience can be left feeling like they don’t get the full story.

The stunning set by Tim McQuillen-Wright is a masterclass in innovation and sleek design, shaped like a draught board with various squares opening up to reveal bedrooms, boardrooms and restaurants.

Until April 22
020 7870 6876

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