Review: Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood, at the Almeida theatre (a Headlong co-production)

Photo Jeff Widener / AP / Press Association Images

Photo Jeff Widener / AP / Press Association Images

From Wikipedia: Chimerica is a neologism coined by Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick describing the symbiotic relationship between China and the United States. In truth, Lucy Kirkwood’s new play, ambitious, incisive and complex, has much in common with the legendary chimera, a creature made with parts from various animals. The play, similarly, wants to be many things (political, character driven, suspenseful, probing the big picture and the tiny details) and in a wondrous deeply moving way it succeeds.

The play spans three decades, starting at a hotel off Tiananmen square in 1989. Three characters take centre stage: an american journalist, a chinese teacher, an english marketing researcher. Colleagues, bosses, relatives, acquaintances, politicians, the authorities swarm around them. At the heart of it a quest,  with press freedom, people’s souls and safety at stake. In fact, this is a story where the stakes are always high: whether it’s friendship, love, morals, livelihoods, nothing is trivialised. There are no perfect choices. Holding onto the moral high ground becomes a sin in its own right. Continue reading

Review: Berenice at the Donmar Warehouse

Anne-Marie Duff (Berenice) and Stephen Campbell Moore (Titus). Photo Johan Persson

Berenice by Jean Racine, in this new production at the Donmar Warehouse, should have been a triumph:  Anne-Marie Duff is an actor of rare emotional truth, director Josie Rourke is responsible for some of the most vibrant productions of the last few years and leading men Stephen Campbell Moore and Dominic Rowan are always a joy to watch. In the end, the production is a more tentative effort, some times uncertain, some times tender, which only finds its real power and focus in the last half hour of the play.

The major problem with the production is the design: breathtaking to look at (a wooden bridge overseeing sand dunes and wooden passages) it plays havoc with the performances: walking on sand is tricky, it’s hardly ever graceful and the actors often play emotional scenes off balance (not in a good way). The long wooden bridge takes time to navigate, choices are restricted and certain scenes lose momentum. Continue reading