Set in the same small village over two distinct time periods, The Sugar-Coated Bullets of the Bourgeoisie reflects on the dramatic social changes that have occurred over the last 70 years. In the first act, Rotten Peach is a village still ensnared by the feudal system until two Work Team Leaders Xu (Andrew Leung) and Tang (Louise Mai Newberry) bring the winds of Communist change. They lead the villagers to create a cooperative, placing Lotus Blossom (Anna Leong Brophy), a prostitute, in charge. When the national Five-Year plans are rolled out, the winds of change bring storm clouds and Rotten Peach struggles to hold on to the waning hope of a better future as crops become tragically scarce.
The second act takes place in the present day Republic, where its ideology is not communism but fervent capitalism. Under threat of ‘re-zoning’ and ‘revitalising’, a much older Lotus Blossom and the citizens of Rotten Peach hold a comedic Chairman Mao impersonation competition in hopes of boosting economic revenue. Recurring threads such as the figure of Mao -- as a leader, a religious idol, a mockery – stitch together seemingly separate worlds, highlighting their striking similarities
Illuminating and engaging, the play forces apparently oppositional ideas -- communism and capitalism, thinking and feeling, west and east – into the spotlight to examine their real relationships. This however comes at the expense of characters, who occasionally become mouthpieces for the play’s greater argument. With a hugely elaborate set which uses every centimetre of the stage, the play’s magnitude is certainly felt. However, the desire to tell so many stories often overshadows the complexity of each individual thread, and the play is occasionally weighed down by its sheer size.
While Lustgarten’s The Sugar-Coated Bullets of the Bourgeoisie is an ambitious piece of theatre which admirably stages an important and often ill-portrayed China, it sadly suffers from its own ambition. Ultimately, however, it asks us as a London audience to examine our preconceived notions of the nation: ‘China is the mirror in which the West looks for reassurance she is beautiful’.
|What||The Sugar-Coated Bullets of the Bourgeoisie, Arcola Theatre review|
|Where||Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street , London, E8 3DL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Highbury & Islington (underground)|
07 Apr 16 – 30 Apr 16, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£10 - £19|
|Website||Click here to book via the Arcola Theatre|