Chinese Whispers at the Greenwich Theatre: First Night review by Stephen Vowles

I love a good history lesson and when that lesson is given with a flair for revealing people’s attitudes towards class, snobbery, the fact that governments can be hoodwinked, skullduggery galore, arrogant behaviour, incessant name-dropping, all executed with superb eloquence and articulation, then it’s a must see. Ian Lindsay and Jeremy Cantrell’s play Chinese Whispers is as fine as a lovely cup of Earl Grey served in a bone china cup and saucer. The play tells the story of Sir Edmund Backhouse, a notorious con man who was also a homosexual, who basically fleeced the Chinese Imperial family and the American bank note company. Mark Farrelly is ideally cast as Backhouse bringing an Edwardian drawing room style to the role, tinged with an air of wickedness. His deliberate asides to the audience give the play a real tempo. The Pythonesque staging complete with animated sequences give the play great depth. The play is full of in-jokes perhaps unknown to some of the audience but this also adds to the intrigue of the play. I liked the idea that a quick trip to Google was inevitable, and which after viewing the information, made me understand the characters even more. Chinese Whispers is a wonderful study in the power of greed and where a human being who is a complete fantasist can manipulate others around him regardless of the consequences. Great informative fun.


Chinese Whispers runs until 23rd July at the Greenwich Theatre. Box office 020 8858 7755.

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