The Golden Dragon review at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff – ‘thought-provoking’
How many frequenters of Chinese restaurants bother to think about the lives of the people preparing their food? In The Golden Dragon, premiered in the UK last year by Music Theatre Wales and now touring, Peter Eotvos unfolds a tale of pandemonium and brutal tragedy as dark realities of immigrant exploitation burst through the social divide.
Based on the play by Roland Schimmelpfennig, the production uses a long red trestle to announce its kitchen-cum-diner setting. Upstage are the superb Music Theatre Wales Ensemble, bristling with percussive, rasping, slip-sliding purpose under conductor Geoffrey Paterson. About the table, five adroit singer-actors bring 23 characters to life between them in Michael McCarthy’s astutely surreal production.
Multiple, inter-linked scenarios combine scathingly witty burlesque with an increasingly sombre social drama. At the centre lies the all-too real tale of the Little One (portrayed with heartrending innocence by Llio Evans), whose illegal status denies him medical aid when spanner extraction of a rotten incisor lands more than a fly in the soup.
Underpinning the whole, a savagely comic reworking of Aesop’s fable sees the Cricket (a horribly cowed Andrew Mackenzie Wicks) eventually subjected to starvation, gang rape, trafficking and slave labour in the clutches of the evil Ant – Lucy Schaufer in commanding form.
Daniel Norman and Johnny Herford, too, are outstanding as Eva and Inga, kitschy-camp flight attendants who get more than they bargain for at a post-flight meal.
The social messages are blunt, but no less vital for all that – albeit there is wider irony in Eotvos’ pseudo-Asian musical exoticism, which treads a fine line between righteous satire and cultural cliche.