Monday, 9 November 2009

wAve - Contact Theatre, Manchester

Writer:Sung Rno
Director: Jonathan Man
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham

wAve examines the assimilation of the Asian culture into the American way of life. At least I think it does. The author crams so many concepts and styles into the play that it is difficult to identify a single coherent theme.

The play turns the story of Medea into that of a Korean immigrant M (Louise Mai Newberry). Guilt at the actions she undertook to help her husband Jason (Jonathan Chan- Pensley ) realise his dream of being an American film star has made her agoraphobic. The realisation that Jason intends to betray her drives M to a terrifying revenge.

Around this central story other sub-plots revolve. Some are amusing but others are obscure or borderline offensive. Cable TV stars are used to satirise the western perception of eastern traditions but their broad interpretation as Chinkey and Gookey is actually stereotypical. On the other hand scenes lifted from Jason’s film version of Miss Saigon featuring a cloned version of Marilyn Monroe (played to good comic effect by Tina Chiang) work well. But Sung Rno does not know where to stop and, seemingly on a whim, adds scenes that serve no purpose than novelty such as a character answering a question by bursting into song.

The cast try hard and add some shading to the play. The subtle difference in Louise May Newberry’s Asian-inflected English and the American drawl of her son Junior (Jay Oliver Yip) is a good touch. The decision of Ashley Alymann to perform the role of Wavemaker as a parody of a mystic is understandable as the poor guy’s dialogue is a mixture of new age gobbledygook and chunks of quantum physics that is hard to take seriously.

Director Jonathan May tries to keep the mood of tragedy for the central plot contrasting against the comedy of the sub-plots. He should have tried harder to clarify the story .It is a sign of the degree of confusion that, at the end of Act One, the audience had to be told that it was only an intermission rather than the end of the play.

Photo: Manuel Harlon

wAve was at the Contact Theatre Manchester on 5th and 6th November , 2009, and is touring to the Riverside Studios in London
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