Celebrated actor, Ian Lindsay (Men Behaving Badly, Benidorm) directs the world première of his play Chinese Whispers at the Greenwich Theatre from July 13th-23rd.
A clever fraudster and fantasist is generally a more appealing character in drama than some noble, upright well-meaning gentleman.
Chinese Whispers is based on the bizarre life of Sir Edmund Backhouse, a confidence trickster of the Victorian age who pulled off audacious swindles against entire nations. Linday’s script is a highly-comic look at the notorious exploits of a man who claimed to have salacious affairs with everyone from Oscar Wilde to the Empress Dowager Cixi of China. Amongst his stings, Backhouse tricked the British Government over an arms deal, John Brown’s Shipyard over a large quantity of battleships and the American Banknote Company regarding an order for printing one hundred million banknotes.
Co-author Jeremy Cantwell, scholar and ex-BBC librarian, had access to the Bodleian Library in Oxford in order to research the story. Between 1913 and 1923 the Bodleian was in receipt of over eight tons of Chinese manuscripts from Sir Edmund in an attempt by him to receive a professorship in return, however it is widely believed the documents were forgeries by Backhouse, much like the rest of his fantastic life.
Lindsay explained “A clever fraudster and fantasist is generally a more appealing character in drama than some noble, upright well-meaning gentleman. I read a biography of Edmund Backhouse and was fascinated by his story; the more so when I discovered the wicked man was an ancestor of mine – he had never been mentioned in the family.”
Best known for his appearances in Men Behaving Badly as George, Ian Lindsay has had a career on stage and screen stretching back five decades. He has played roles in TV favourites such as Z Cars, Boon, Forever Green, Casualty, Peak Practice, EastEnders, Coronation Street, Benidorm and many more. On the big screen Ian appeared in Mike Bassett: England Manager, The Tall Guy and Little Dorrit. He is the best selling author of How to Kill a Yob, and this is his second play following the Arts Council award-winning Lasagne Verdi.
Jeremy Cantwell originally trained as a Legal Executive, but left the profession to pursue a career in TV media. He spent 26 years at the BBC, latterly in managerial and business development capacities for the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
Chinese Whispers runs in the main house of Greenwich Theatre from 13th – 23rd July, with press night on 14thJuly. Casting for Chinese Whispers will be announced shortly. Authors Ian Lindsay and Jeremy Cantwell are both local residents of Greenwich.