Irish ninjas and gang politics

By Myron My

You wouldn’t expect the seedy underworld of Dublin to have much in common with martial arts, but in Mark O’Rowe‘s dark comedy Made In China, these two worlds collide for three men who are all facing their own power struggles with each other and within gang politics. One wants to get out, one wants to get in, and the other one wants to remain on top.

Made In China

Unfortunately, this promising story moves at an incredibly slow pace, with nothing happening until roughly the final twenty minutes of this two-hour play. Even when the plot reaches its climax, it still feels drawn out and lacks any suspense. There is very little in terms of character development, which has these people come across as monotonous beings. Even by the end of the show, there is very little that has actually changed for these people in the greater scheme of things.

High up in the gang food chain, Kirby (Stuart Jeanfield) is such a weird character that his menace and aggressiveness is farcical, and not in a good way. In fact, I found a lot of the humour scripted in this to be quite a miss, particular the cringe-inducing sexual overtone scenes with Kirby and his Nik Naks crisps. Hughie (Vaughn Rae) is more or less a passive pawn in his power struggle with Kirby from beginning to end. Damien Harrison as Paddy is fortunate enough to play a character that at least gets to go on an emotional journey and is somewhat changed by the end of the proceedings, even if the way it occurs seems forced.

Despite these issues, first-time director Fleur Murphy works well with the actors to produce highly committed performances, and some physically demanding ones too with the choreographed fight scenes by Myles Tankle. Murphy does her best to keep the action on stage engaging, but given the confines of the space and script, it results in a lot of repeated pacing around and sitting down.

I have to say the set design failed to excited me aesthetically and the random lighting effects during the fight scenes felt contrived. The vocal coaching by Suzanne Heywood proves to have worked soundly with all three actors consistently keeping to their accents. However, the strong accents and the added slang used throughout the play admittedly made it very difficult to follow what was happening at times.

Walking out at the end of Made In China, I must confess I did not feel satisfied with the pay-off we received as an audience. Despite the interesting premise, this is ultimately not the most exciting story, and as written, the characters feel boring and one-dimensional. There appear to be some talented minds behind TBC Theatre however, with the choice of their current production, that does not come across successfully.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond.
Season: Until 25 July | Wed- Sat 7:30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: Q44 Theatre