Sink is a poignant and fascinating drama about one of China’s greatest playwrights, Lao She; a man who wrote for his country and was once honoured as an ‘Artist of the people’ but was later renounced as a reactionary capitalist sympathiser during China’s Cultural Revolution in 1966. A revolution that saw many writers and poets publically shamed, outcast and abandoned by their loved ones. For She, the shaming and abandonment from his country and family eventually proved too much and he took his own life.

Sink proves itself a thought-provoking emotive tragedy, and a notable watch for Western and Asian audiences alike.

The play follows the moments that happened in She’s life once he was deemed a reactionary, opposing political and social reform, as his plays were considered to celebrate capitalism instead of socialism. For Western audiences, it’s reversed McCarthyism. The story unfolds through multiple narratives happening in different time zones. In one particular narrative that stood out, there is an actor portraying one of She’s characters, who is himself another version of the writer.

Then there is a type of meta interview where She’s son is interviewed and asked questions about his father. These moments add a meta quality to the play, almost taking us out of the drama and forcing us to look at the play's’ subject in an intellectual way. It is almost Brechtian in parts.

Contrasting brilliantly with these slightly alienating techniques are moments of high drama, where we see She’s family interrogated after his public shaming. There is a brilliant moment, when the government officer interrogating She’s family notices a copy of 1984 on their shelf and immediately begins looking for ways to bring the family down along with She.

The different timezones in the narrative can get confusing, but stick with it and there is a brilliant drama here, which may just need some further crafting as the team develop the play. The best moments are found in the more dramatic scenes, and there is a particularly powerful and intriguing scene when She is confronted by his own self reflective character.

Sink unveils itself as a poetic meta biography, a tragedy that shifts through time, portraying a historical and tyrannical China, whose oppressive doctrines still exist today. Whilst the play will be highly impacting for Chinese audiences, speaking political truths that may not be so easily uttered in their own country, it is also a powerful drama for Western audiences. As far right politics insinuate themselves further into our lives, authoritarian dictatorships do not seem so so distant from our own shores.

With some great performances, intelligent and cerebral writing, and a story that is poignant in our current political climate, Sink proves itself a thought-provoking emotive tragedy, and a notable watch for Western and Asian audiences alike. 

Reviews by Dave House

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The Blurb

'I love this country, but who loves me?’ The play is based on the true story of Lao She, a Chinese writer of great esteem, who, at one stage, was given the title of People’s Artist. However, this would all change during the cultural revolution, including his family, as Lao She was deemed a reactionary and publicly humiliated. The production asks questions of freedom, identity, history and our own place and role in contemporary society. The show was staged at London Courtyard Theatre in February 2017, and will be performed in English by Chinese actors.