Jess and Chris are best friends with a bad habit of picnicking near major disaster zones: the Haiti earthquake, the Asian Tsunami and Manhattan on the morning of 9/11. No wonder they’re now keeping themselves to themselves, holed up with their coolbox “while everyone else gets wasted”.
That's not to say they don't share their memories, their dance moves - and their popcorn. All manner of food and drink gets chucked about in Made in China’s latest show - it’s become something of a company trademark - but it’s the popcorn that sticks in my mind. For five whole minutes, they cram it into their mouths, silent save for the chewing, while blankly watching the audience.
The passivity is powerful. This is a show about the challenges of empathy, between close friends as much as distant strangers. “But there are children starving in...,” Jess starts to say. Still they chew on, calling to mind that Newswipe film, ‘Oh Dearism’, about the helplessness we feel in the face of the big bad world.
This being Made in China, there is light amid the gloom. For starters, Tim Cowbury and Jessica Latowicki’s script does not judge us. And Latowicki’s nuanced performance alongside clownlike (in the best sense) Chris Bailey is buoyed along by a soundtrack of Bowie and some very effective lighting.
Life’s not such a picnic, as it turns out. But Made in China offer some lasting food for thought (and feeling).