Wednesday, 19 March 2008
The China Incident, March 19, 2008
The China Incident
by Peter Houghton, Malthouse Theatremarch 19 to April 12, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
There is something I have noticed when a show really grabs me: my mouth drops open and I don’t scribble any notes.
Even during this, my second viewing of The China Incident, my mouth gaped, my eyes widened, I laughed out loud, grimaced and gasped as I witnessed this galloping, hilarious corporate workplace disaster.
Anne Browning as diplomatic PR consultant Bea Pontifec, stalks the stage like a crazed stick insect in a pin-striped suit and stilettos. From start to finish of this solo Grand Prix of performances, Bea prowls around her high-rise corporate office, juggling seven phones and even more social, political and family crises.
On the red phone Bea advises the US President – who displays a lecherous, drunken obsession with her undies – about his “Five Party Talks”. On the black phone she soothes the General, the brutal dictator of an insolvent, war torn African nation, trying to solve his international image problem while she listens to him slaughter his rebelling people wholesale.
Meanwhile her personal life is in chaos. Her son is arrested for drug trafficking and her new-age daughter plans an embarrassing wedding with a gay man as bridesmaid and appalling old china as table centrepieces. Bea’s married lover is on his way to the Bahamas with his wife and Bea’s assistant, Minty, is brainless. Her useless, hippy ex-husband is attached to the intercom downstairs, the groom and his boring parents are on the phones – and Bea offends all of them.
Peter Houghton’s script is cunningly written and very, very funny. He also directs Browning (his wife), maintaining a cracking pace that leaves Bea gasping for air by the time she makes a pig’s ear of everything.
Bea makes one fatal error after another but Browning and Houghton never put a foot wrong. This really is a marriage made in heaven – despite the fact that he makes her portray an arrogant, heartless, bigoted corporate monster.
We too are left breathless after this race to save the dictators of the world from image disaster. There is something satisfying knowing that the bad guys might all be found out.
By Kate Herbert