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The Message

Cathay Playhouse present THE MESSAGE, a play, based on the 2005 novel by Mai Jei, at the Lend Lease Darling Theatre Quarter, Darling Harbour. 27th Oct – 30th Oct.

THE MESSAGE, is a play based on the novel by contemporary Chinese novelist, Mai Jei. It was produced by an Australian/Chinese Sydney based company Cathay Playhouse – I have seen other productions over the past years. This play is the first almost contemporary work that I have seen. The novel was published in 2004 and was made into a successful film in 2007.

Set in the city of Nanking in 1942, four individuals – code encryptors – have been brought to Qiu Castle. There has been an assassination of a high ranking official in the ruling Japanese puppet government set up by the former Nationalist, Wang Jingwei. One of these individuals is suspected of being a ‘spy’ – a ‘ghost’ – for the resistors/assassins in the struggle in China with their ruthless invaders.

Ryukawa Hihara (Gordon Guo) of Japanese origin, a Scholar of the Chinese culture, is the investigative officer in attempting to find the ‘ghost’. He is assisted by his henchman, Bai Xiao-Nian (Josh Cui Heng-Yi). Through intimidation, even to torture, he manipulates the five suspects into a waiting game where he hopes they may inform on each other. As ‘tricks’ and mis-information are employed suspicion moves from person to person: Jin Sheng-Huo (Hong Wang Hong-Peng), Wu Zhi-Guo (Zeno Kong Zhe), Li Ning-Yu (Denise Ye Wei-Dan) and Gu Xiao-Meng (Melissa LI Ya-Jing).

The play is constructed in the mode of an Agatha Christie mystery with more blatant illustrations of physical and psychological violence – people locked in a fixed unescapable environment with the pressure of time ratcheting the tension to extreme heights. It is interesting to note that past repertoire presented by Cathay Playhouse has included Agatha Christie’s famous THE MOUSETRAP, in 2015.

This production is Directed by long time Resident Director of Cathay Playhouse, Wang Hui-Li, and manages in the many scenes to keep the audience in an attentive rapture. It is very interesting to watch these actors display their skills in such a naturalistic exercise in their own language (there were sub-titles). All, particularly the principals, are convincing. There is great discipline throughout all of the elements of the performing company.

Gordon Guo, has the opportunity to create a suave but mentally tortured Japanese alien who in the search for the ‘ghost-‘spy’ is haunted by the ghost of his now dead wife, and moves, incrementally, to a kind of ‘madness’, breakdown. The play offers the two women a complicated story and Denise Ye Wei-Dan and Melissa Li Ya-Jing, seize their opportunities with relish.

Says, Wang Hui-Li, ‘Cathay’s intention to perform the THE MESSAGE is to remind us of our past for the revolution, revive the almost buried past and commemorate (the) silent heroes who fought with their blood and life.’