A mix of curiosity and egomania: Stephen Campbell Moore in "Chimerica"
Hurrah, one of my theatrical wishes has come true at a click of my Dorothy red heels. I have been raving all summer about what a grand play Chimerica is. With admirable speed, the Almeida's and Headlong's co-production has just transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End. I can't think of a more absorbing and ambitious drama to tempt us into the autumn stalls.
Set in Beijing, the day the tanks advanced towards demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and around the last American election, Lucy Kirkwood's tableau tackles one of the biggest subjects of the era: the relationship between China and America. At a time when political drama in Britain tends to the pedestrian, partisan or blithely parochial, here is an offering which rises above the obvious to deal with the tensions and possibilities of the interconnected world with flair and intellectual brio.
Kirkwood provides a simple plot which contains a welter of complexities, doubts and interpretations. As the dissident uprising is crushed, Joe, a young American photographer (Stephen Campbell Moore), captures the compelling image of the young Chinese protestor standing in front of a tank and refusing to budge — a piece of history held in a haunting image.
More than two decades later, a message left in the small ads of a newspaper leads Joe to track down the nameless hero, a quest which becomes first obsessive and then illuminating, though not quite as he imagined.
Chimerica pays long overdue homage to a generation shaped by the failures of the Tiananmen revolution. Joe's best source has a recurring nightmare in which his young fiancée, killed by a stray bullet, emerges from his kitchen fridge. Belatedly he is driven by guilt and frustration to a brave, doomed act of resistance to the regime's denial of its role in ecological havoc.