Critics cheer Kirkwood's West End Chimerica
Lucy Kirkwood's new play, which won critical acclaim with its original run at the Almeida Theatre has transferred to the West End's Harold Pinter Theatre, where it runs until 19 October 2013
Such a pleasure to re-visit this engaging, elliptical, twisty and beautifully written play… Joe Schofield, played at full tilt by the eminently watchable Stephen Campbell Moore… As before, the kaleidoscopic nature of Kirkwood's construct, so brilliantly directed by Lyndsey Turner, is perfectly expressed in Es Devlin's ground-breaking design of a magical, rotating cube that contains solid interiors within and logos, slogans, video film and location shots without. This technical bravura of presentation is carried right through the lighting of Tim Lutkin, the sound design of Carolyn Downing and the video design of Finn Ross. The fragmented, edgy "feel" of the production is endemic to the character of the play and its content…
…Lucy Kirkwood's magnificent drama from the Almeida, a quasi-thriller shot through with profound geo-political reflections on the two global superpowers of the 21st century, China and America… Thus begins a drama that hops back and forth across continents and years in Lyndsey Turner's perfectly-pitched production, supported by slick video design from Finn Ross. Kirkwood spins us brilliantly, and often wittily, in a number of directions while never losing sight of her central focus… Wong gives Zhang Lin a quiet stoicism that gradually curdles into fury, while Campbell Moore, as the perennial Peter Pan globetrotter, aptly suggests that Joe, like many a "man of the people" before him, is far better with abstract causes than the individual specimens of humanity he comes across… All in all, a towering achievement.
…Among a host of other issues, Kirkwood deals with the ethics and practice of photojournalism; and this is dazzlingly reflected in Es Devlin's design, in which blown up, contact-sheet images are projected on to a revolving cube. Lyndsey Turner's astonishingly filmic production keeps the action driving forward through 39 scenes and boasts an impressive array of performances. Stephen Campbell Moore precisely captures Joe's mix of reckless idealism and self-absorption, Benedict Wong eloquently conveys Zhang Lin's private grief and public defiance, and there is exemplary work from Claudie Blakley as the sharp-tongued Tessa and Sean Gilder as a battered reporter. If we see a better new play this year, we'll be extremely lucky.
…Kirkwood, and her director Lyndsey Turner, tell a story which combines the intellectual juggling skills of Stoppard with a compelling emotional tale of love and loss, commitment and compromise, blindness and dawning realisation, and bind these contradictions into an enthralling whole… Campbell Moore brings a vulnerable, toothily-naïve drive to his crusading character, ultimately just a guy in the right place at the right time. It's also a strikingly mature love story… At the turning heart of the play – a metaphor for the ever spinning planet which we share, rich or poor – is Es Devlin's revolving set, transporting us from failing west to surgent China, black and white photographic images of poverty and affluence projected in counterpoint upon its walls. Whatever else this play tells you, have no doubt it really is all about the money.
…nothing had quite prepared one for the sheer theatrical boldness and thematic sweep of Chimerica... The play was unveiled in May in an Almeida/Headlong co-production and it now transfers to the West End where it jubilantly justifies the near-unanimous rave reviews… It could have become a tad indigestible. But Lyndsey Turner's dazzling, fast-paced production is one of those rare occasions where matter and manner are brilliantly fused, with significant thanks to Es Devlin's superb design - an ingenious cube that revolves through time and space, drenched in Finn Ross's excellent projections… In the splendid company, Stephen Campbell Moore compellingly conveys the charismatic recklessness and blinkered self-absorption of the photographer; Benedict Wong is a movingly haunted Zhang Lin… A strong contender for play of the year.