Reviewed – 22nd April 2019
“It’s hard to say whether I would have enjoyed this much more if I understood Chinese, but my guess is no”
There’s no doubt that Qianqian Chen’s ‘Safety Net’ is intentionally confusing – fractured timelines, one character played by two actors, and an abstract set design. But I can’t imagine it was intended to be completely incomprehensible.
Along with a programme, the audience is provided with a translation of various scenes that will take place in Chinese. Beside the fact that it’s quite difficult to read in a darkened theatre, let alone follow what’s taking place on stage whilst doing so, there are actually twice as many scenes in Chinese as there are printed translations. For the first couple I can hear the audience desperately rustling through, trying to find the correlating translation but after a while there’s a collective giving up, simply allowing the words to wash over us, with little to no grasp on what is happening.
The premise – as cobbled together from my hazy understanding, and the explanation on the programme – is about a young Chinese woman, Jing (Siqi Han/Lilian Tsang) living in the US whilst her fiancé Tian (Robin, Khor Yong Kuan) lives in China. In a strange and unknown environment Jing struggles with the new and the traditional; the passionate versus the practical.
The setting (Joy Huang) is equally as opaque as the script, devised only of black and white blocks, continuously restacked and reshuffled with no explanation. Similarly, the lighting (Jinwen Wang) spotlights on moments of seeming importance but those moments are not properly expounded upon. It’s hard to say whether I would have enjoyed this much more if I understood Chinese, but my guess is no.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Etcetera Theatre until 27th April
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: