Review by Libby Purves

All our reviews for The Golden Dragon can be found on our site here, with links to the full texts. 

The Times is a subscription-only website, so we have put the full review below instead:

 

Libby Purves, August 13 2011, The Times

The grasshopper gets into character by pulling a pair of green, Chinese trousers over his head and clapping on some deelyboppers.

We are hearing the fable of the industrious ant and the feckless cricket who sang all
summer and had to beg in winter.

Ant (wonderfully played by Ann Firbank) is a cross, small elderly woman. The
grasshopper gets into character by pulling a pair of green, Chinese trousers
over his head and clapping on some deelyboppers. Hoping for food, he dances: a
sudden beauty of oriental flute music is played by the three other performers.

Abruptly, the five are chefs in the crowded steamy kitchen of a “Thai/
Chinese/Vietnamese” fast-food restaurant, the Golden Dragon, somewhere in
Europe. A Chinese boy — played by a girl — lies screaming on the floor.

He has a rotten black tooth, which they are extracting with a spanner and a satay stick.
He has “no money, no papers, a dentist is out of the question”.

Amid the agony come orders for the complicated dishes of ancient cultures whose names, all through the play, ring like mantras in a drifting, impoverished, anxious,
hardworking world. “Number B2, bun cha gio chay, rice noodles, crispy fried
spring rolls, salad, beansprouts, cucumber, roasted onions, peanuts, Vietnamese
basil and coriander . . .”

The tooth comes out, and abruptly we are in the upstairs flat where a woman, played by a man shucking on a red dress, is leaving a husband played by a girl. The ant
becomes the shopkeeper and resolves the problem of the cricket by pimping her
as a sex slave. Two weary air-hostesses turn up as customers, their lives spent
“serving food in a droning cylinder”, 35,000ft above a meaningless world.

Roland Schimmelpfennig calls his narrator-characters merely “a man over 60, a woman
over 60, a young man”, etc. They are cast against gender and age, as in a drama
school exercise. None of them is Asian. It could be dull, earnest,
neo-Brechtian homework, but actually the ATC/Drum production of David
Tushingham’s translation is rather absorbing: a touching evocation of global
migrants, an essay on globalised deracination, the shifts and abuses of poverty
in hidden communities whose heritage is expressed only in noodle and coconut,
lemongrass and ginger. The final moments are mournfully beautiful.

 

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