Tag Archives: Sarah Lam

Rice

Rice

★★★★

Orange Tree Theatre

Rice

Rice

Orange Tree Theatre

Reviewed – 13th October 2021

★★★★

 

“Michele Lee has created great characters and a compelling story”

 

Rice is Michele Lee’s enterprising two hander about women of colour trapped in the heirarchical (and blinkered) world of male dominated business in Australia. It has just opened at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. It’s a co-production between the Orange Tree and the Actors Touring Company, directed by Matthew Xia. Despite the best efforts of all concerned, Rice is a play with a brilliant premise that doesn’t quite meet its promise.

Lee, who is Hmong-Australian, wanted to create a play that gave two actresses of colour a chance to play multiple roles—roles of “versatility and virtuosity and range.” In creating Nisha, (played by Zainab Hasan) an ambitious young executive hoping to rise in the Golden Fields rice company of Melbourne, and pitting her against the older Yvette (Sarah Lam), a cleaner of Chinese ancestry at the same company, Lee creates a situation fraught with cross cultural tensions both within and without these women’s lives. Hasan does not only play Nisha, an Australian of West Bengali ancestry, but shifts into a variety of roles, including Sheree, Yvette’s troubled daughter, and the white (and very privileged) son of David Egan—a man who is threatening her daughter with a prison sentence. Lam takes on an equally dazzling range of roles, including Tom Budd, an executive at Nisha’s company with whom Nisha has a brief and ill-judged affair; Graeme Hartley, a management “guru”, and Gretel Patel—who brings Nisha’s dreams of advancement to a crashing fall during a disastrous business trip to India.

The story of Rice is quite simple: Nisha and Yvette meet in Nisha’s office where she has been working long hours. Nisha is unhappy with Yvette’s refusal to clean her workspace to her liking. Yvette has very definite ideas about what she should be cleaning. But this clash between powerful personalities is about to become irrelevant in company politics—the Golden Fields company has just hired a management “guru” who is slashing and burning every budget he can find. Thrown together in mutual misery in a series of after business hours encounters, the women become friends. They bond over food, naturally—both Yvette’s home cooked Chinese dishes, and Nisha’s concern over her happy go lucky boyfriend’s food truck and his “khaki rolls.”

Two actresses, no matter how experienced or talented—as Lam and Hasan are—cannot quite pull off the range of roles in Rice, although dialect coach Catherine Weate has done sterling work with all the accents. It’s hard for the audience to keep track of all the characters that cross this bright, white stage in ninety five minutes of playing time. It’s to Lee’s credit that she has created such interesting and varied roles—it would be great to see a cast playing each role with a single actor. Similarly, the change of scenes in Rice would benefit from changes of scenery. Changing the lighting (again, even in the talented hands of Bethany Gupwell, the lighting designer) doesn’t quite do it.

A play with such a varied cast and complex settings (the scenes shift from Melbourne, Australia to Delhi, India) is a lot to pull off successfully in a small theatre in the round. The intimacy of the Orange Tree stage should work well in a two hander, but in this case, the set design is unnecessarily cluttered with a desk. This makes playing in the round quite tricky—every time someone sits down at that desk, the space is transformed from four into three sides, and the audience seated on the fourth side behind the desk have to grapple with the backs (or, at best, the profiles) of the performers. This happens too often not to be an unwelcome distraction. But the overwhelming feeling that remains after the conclusion of this production of Rice—is that this might not be a piece for the theatre. Perhaps the story would show to best advantage as an Australian indie film—the kind that has made Australian film making famous.

In Rice, Michele Lee has created great characters and a compelling story. But it needs the right environment to show to best advantage. Put together a bigger cast in the right medium—and this could be a classic.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Helen Murray

 

Rice

Orange Tree Theatre until 13th November

 

Five star reviews this year:
Bad Days And Odd Nights | ★★★★★ | Greenwich Theatre | June 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Breakin’ Convention 2021 | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | July 2021
Cinderella | ★★★★★ | Gillian Lynne Theatre | August 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Duchess Theatre | May 2021
Overflow | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | August 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
Rainer | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | October 2021
Reunion | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
In My Own Footsteps | ★★★★★ | Book Review | June 2021
Sh!t-Faced Macbeth | ★★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | July 2021
Shook | ★★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Hooley | ★★★★★ | Chiswick House & Gardens | June 2021
Starting Here, Starting Now | ★★★★★ | Waterloo East Theatre | July 2021
Witness For The Prosecution | ★★★★★ | London County Hall | September 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | October 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

La Cage Aux Folles

★★★★

Park Theatre

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 19th February 2020

★★★★

 

“a gem of a play, tightly timed and focussed”

 

Simon Callow’s translation of this celebrated French farce is a triumph of hilarious camp, full of double entendres, sparkly dresses and genuine affection. Georges and Albin are a gay couple, living above the Cage Aux Folles nightclub. Albin is its ageing star who still looks good in a frock, but is no longer the sexy sylph. Georges is the harassed manager, continually fending of crises. They bicker and squabble, but, as Michael Matus and Paul Hunter show, they still love each other anyway. But their world is about to be turned upside down. Georges’ son Laurent arrives and announces that he is getting married, and that his girlfriend and her parents are coming to stay. Unfortunately the parents are conservative in the extreme, and the father is running for election on a ticket of morality and rectitude. How can Georges rearrange and tame his gorgeously queeny household and survive their arrival? That is the central dilemma that drives the action, and it is quite a task!

Syrus Lowe is a total class act as the screamingly camp and beautiful employee, Jacob. He struts and pouts his way through the play with a charming outrageousness and his attempt to walk in men’s shoes instead of his high heels is a masterpiece of physical comedy. By the time Laurent’s girlfriend Muriel and her the parents arrive the apartment has been transformed from its boudoir aesthetic to something almost monastic, complete with crucifix, Tim Shorthall’s design creating the physical changes Laurent persuades Georges to make, in his attempt to portray a ‘respectable’ family. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong. Laurent has invited his absentee mother to dinner much to the horror of Georges and Albin, and Albin has given up in his attempt to play the masculine uncle, opting for a totally different role that complicates everything. As the dinner party goes rapidly downhill the club downstairs is plunging into chaos and Georges has to act. Throughout the play other drag artists appear from downstairs and a reporter snoops around, looking for dirt. The reporter is played by Mark Cameron, who also has a hilarious cameo as the butcher, a tough guy macho man who turns out to have an unlikely love of art.

Jez Bond has directed a gem of a play, tightly timed and focussed, but feeling like an outrageous disaster as all good farce should. I hope this gets a transfer after it’s life at the Park. It deserves it.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Mark Douet

 


La Cage Aux Folles

Park Theatre until 21st March

 

Last  ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Black Chiffon | ★★★★ | September 2019
Mother Of Him | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Fast | ★★★★ | October 2019
Stray Dogs | | November 2019
Sydney & The Old Girl | ★★★★ | November 2019
Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis | ★★★★★ | December 2019
The Snow Queen | ★★★★ | December 2019
Rags | ★★★ | January 2020
Shackleton And His Stowaway | ★★★ | January 2020
Time And Tide | ★★★ | February 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews