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Posts Tagged ‘Duncan Harte’

I’ve worked in China twice, on both occasions for British companies with operations there, both leadership and team development projects. The first was in 1999 and the second just over three years ago. Between the two, China’s rapid economic growth had changed the business world, bringing with it dubious ethics and poor management practices. By 2013, translation was being declined by executives lest they lost face; being known as someone who spoke English was key to career success. The consequential lack of comprehension brought huge issues. This play is about doing business in China and whilst I was watching scenes of poor translation leading to significant misunderstanding, I couldn’t help wondering how good the quality of translation and understanding of my words was!

Daniel is trying to sell signage for his ailing company in Cleveland, Ohio. He hires local Englishman Peter, teacher turned business consultant, and gets an opportunity to make a proposal to the Culture Minister & Deputy Minister of a large city. They are close to completing their new Arts Centre and will need bi-lingual signage, preferably without the translation gaffs of other projects. Daniel gets caught up in an extraordinary learning curve of misunderstanding, politics and corruption and only makes progress when he fires his consultant, gets lost in translation himself and does the counter-intuitive by exploiting rather than hiding his dubious past. It’s a very clever, and based on my limited experience, very authentic play, hugely entertaining, unpredictable and very funny. By using both English and Mandarin (with subtitles) you see exactly what’s going on, though Daniel doesn’t.

Tim McQuillen-Wright’s ingenious set allows the play to flow effortlessly from restaurant to office to hotel bedroom to home. Getting bi-lingual actor Duncan Harte to play a bi-lingual character is a real casting coup. Lobo Chan is totally believable as the minister, and Candy Ma is terrific as his Deputy, who goes on a very unexpected journey during the course of the play. There are lovely cameo’s from Siu-see Hung as the first incompetent translator and Winston Liong as the well-connected second translator, and Minhee Yeo has a fine turn in scene stealing facial expressions. It all revolves around Daniel, of course, with Gyuri Sarossy is on stage almost the whole time. It’s staged with great pace and attention to detail by Andrew Keates.

I’ve only seen one play by American playwright David Henry Hwang before, the sensational M Butterfly in 1989, long overdue for revival. He hasn’t written that many full length plays (nine in 30 years?) but we haven’t seen that many of them here. Two more weeks to catch this one at Park Theatre. Don’t miss it.

 

 

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