Review: Consumed, Lakeside Arts Centre, by Alan Geary
It's a topical plot set in the new China of go-getting businessmen and women, bright lights, skyscrapers, skype – and corruption. The biggest shopping mall in Asia is being dreamed up by, among others, an Englishman resident in China and a Chinese national who after years in the US has recently returned to a country he hardly recognises.
Consumed also has a love story complicated not just by a huge language divide but by an unforeseen coincidence.
There are themes of depersonalisation – most of the action is at night in sterile hotel rooms with people talking into gadgets. And there's a lack of fundamental contact and comprehension between cultures, symbolised by the fact that the Englishman has an autistic son back home.
Serge Soric is controlled and convincing as John Bartholemew, the Briton. But there are two superb performances from Ning Li as Tong Zheng and Song Ruhui as Su Chen. The former, the programme tells us, is "one of China's leading contemporary actors", and the latter is an award-winning actress. In each case it shows.
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There's a wonderful unspoken love scene between Bartholemew and Chen. Although both are in bed it's also contact-free in a physical sense. Background music here is tender and wistful.
In a neat design touch, back projection, which adds a lot to the play's visual impact, is done on a screen that is frequently taken apart and folded to become furniture. Presumably unintentionally the fact that the English printed word element was, at the Lakeside, often hard to read, compounded one of the major themes.
Another problem, a serious one, is that an hour and fifty minutes without an interval is a, perhaps unnecessary, challenge.
Directed by Michael Walling, this is from Border Crossings in association with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and Tara Arts.