Monday, September 11, 2006

The Trouble With Asian Men/(I am) Nobody's Lunch

Sam Marlowe at Soho, W1

So, an actor asks the audience, what is the trouble with Asian men? “Their mothers,” comes one response. “Lack of a six-pack,” comes another. “They run away at the first sign of trouble,” remarks a woman with quiet seriousness. These and other issues are discussed in this hour-long verbatim piece, created for the Asian company Tamasha by Kristine Landon-Smith, Sudha Bhuchar and Louise Wallinger and first seen in November. A quartet of actors use recorded interviews, which are played into their earpieces and re-spoken to us complete with the vocal idiosyncrasies of the original speaker.

The method has limitations. The non-stop playing of the recording into the actors’ ears means that they cannot pause to accommodate an audience response. Sometimes their faces go blank with concentration; and Landon- Smith’s production is somewhat static. But there’s an undeniable authenticity about the conversations — even if they yield few fresh insights.

We hear about sexism and homophobia, of dictatorial husbands, inflexible fathers and mothers. There are accounts of lives divided between a traditional role at home and a modern Western one outside it. There is a touchingly comic tale of a Sikh who realises he wears a turban for reasons he doesn’t fully understand, and bids farewell to it, and to the hair he has never before cut, at Vidal Sassoon.

The New York cabaret company the Civilians also use a verbatim approach, albeit a more fluid one. (I am) Nobody’s Lunch, winner of a 2006 Edinburgh Fringe First, wittily considers the impossibility of certainty in a world stuffed with lies. Snappy songs and scenes drawn from interviews with various fearful citizens muse on the unknowable realities behind news headlines, tabloid gossip and political spin, underscored by the mewing of Schrödinger’s Cat, which may or may not be imprisoned in a suspect package abandoned on the stage. The show doesn’t have the intensity of the company’s last UK outing, the post-9/11 Gone Missing, but it’s an inventive and provocative exploration of the 21st-century condition.

Box office: 0870 4296883