Written by: Roland Schimmelpfennig
Translated by: David Tushingham
Directed by: Ramin Gray
Cast: David Beames, Adam Best, Ann Firbank, Kathryn O’Reilly, Jack Tarlton
It’s that time of the year when horoscopes are rife with what the new year shall bring forth into everyone’s plates so everyone shall decide how the year should be planned. This is the year of the dragon as per the Chinese calendar, it comes every 12 years, this year it brought with it a great story set in a Thai-Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant somewhere in Europe called The Golden Dragon. German playwright, Roland Schimmelpfennig is the hot new favourite on the theatre scene having written this great play about globalisation, immigration, finding one’s identity as well as gender fluidity where the actors comfortably fit into a character’s space and very believably portray it. The play has been well directed by Ramin Gray and there is no moment of disconnect in the story told over 75 minutes. While it was already creating ripples across the world before the crew came to India for a theatrical tour, I would like to mention that it is highly recommended for those who enjoy satirical comedies.
This story revolves around the Thai-Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant which outwardly is a dining as well as a takeaway restaurant however, brewing in it’s kitchen is a huge existential dilemma amongst the cooks, the waiters and a small chinese boy who has a bad tooth ; while there are many stories unfolding in the same building where The Golden Dragon Restaurant operates from. A pregnant teenage girl, an estranged couple, a shopkeeper, an old man, two air-hostesses, an ant and a cricket make up the character base of the play. The actors enact these array of characters amongst themselves in short acts differentiated by pauses, "short pause", "long pause". Most of all, gender fluidity is this play’s trademark literally. In our times of sexual liberation, we see cross-gender effortless acting. It is abstract but highly poignant in what it is trying to establish.There are so many truths that gradually surface out of a maze of routine occurrences in the play hence it demands attention.
There are phases of violence and pain, that of the little boy suffering from tooth decay who cannot afford a treatment from a dentist because of his situation (and the cooks become the doctors better read as quacks, the estranged couple where the husband cannot express himself until he beats an unknown girl black and blue to release his pent up frustration or the act with the ant and grasshopper where the grasshopper sings the summer away and the ant has been working hard storing up for the winters. There is a duality in each character, where the inebriated man becomes violent, the singing grasshopper becomes needy and is "used" well by the ants who the grasshopper approaches for food and shelter. And most importantly, back to where it all started, the kitchen of The Golden Dragon where the chinese boy has bled to death and his body is flung off a bridge built over a deep, flowing river.
The boy’s soul speaks to the audience and his extracted decayed tooth lands in a bowl of soup offered to a patron eventually to be thrown into nothingness. The world a beautiful place disguises darker truths that slowly dawn on each one of us. It is metaphorically ridden which became the driving factor of this story.