Made In China 2.0

Made In China 2.0
By Wang Chong. Directed by Wang Chong and Emma Valente. Malthouse Theatre. 28 February - 19 March 2023.

This is a deeply personal and touching performance even though it is structured like a lecture and employs some basic digital technology. Nonetheless, the show is fully and profoundly immersed in theatrical traditions, and Wang Chong’s performance is as brave as it is daring in its play with form. The content is an extremely poignant expression of an implacable desire to speak freely. This gives the show quite an edge and makes it all the more remarkable. 

Chong employs a minimal set. He doesn’t take on a character and addresses the audience as himself, a renowned experimental theatre director, and even his outfit echoes the simple stage design. His plain white shirt and black straight leg trousers adds to the starkness and neutrality of the setting. The ambience appears quite sinister, yet it is warm and absorbing. The overall effect is mesmerising. He is serious and informative yet also very personable. The humour in his demeanour and insightful observations simply enhances his appeal and makes his story increasingly engrossing. 

Chong also employs simple but striking techniques to evoke characters and heroes from within his culture. He conjures up conversations with family members by changing hand gestures which are caught in close-up by the camera. Their large and dominating presence on the screen suspended behind him is emphatic and renders the gestures very expressive. This is just one example of his use of digital technology for purely theatrical purposes. Such strategies in his show are a clear acknowledgement of the incredible power of simple gestures when combined with an intense focus.

The stage design has a brilliant culmination at the end of the show, capturing the mood and the pathos of his accounts in an exceptionally precise manner. This is an incredibly courageous and inspiring performance and perhaps one of the most powerful pieces of theatre ever to grace the stage. I may have already said too much but, in actual fact, I am sure I have not said anywhere near enough.

Patricia Di Risio 

Photographer: Tamarah Scott

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