Chinglish is at its best when it transcends the language barrier

Asia is where it’s at these days. Who hasn’t heard this little nugget of wisdom before? The once mighty West is now falling over itself to do business with growing Asian economies – especially China.

The interest that the United States and China have in each other gave award-winning Asian American playwright David Henry Hwang the idea for Chinglish, currently staged by Singapore’s Pangdemonium! at the Drama Centre Theatre.

Performed in both English and Mandarin, the play follows Daniel Cavanaugh, an American businessman who goes to China in the hopes of reviving his family’s flagging signage company by scoring a contract to provide the signs for an upcoming cultural centre in Guiyang. Knowing next to nothing about China or the Chinese, Cavanaugh muddles his way through, learning about guanxi and the convoluted relationships between Chinese business and politics.

Cue the predictable language gags, complete with three outrageous translators (all played by Audrey Luo). A preliminary meeting between Cavanaugh, his consultant Peter Timms and the Culture Minister and Vice-Minister of Guiyang is full of awkward grins – you know, the one you use when you have no idea what the other person is saying but don’t want to be rude – and terrible translations, leaving the audience roaring with laughter.

Read more: The Online Citizen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

six + nine =