The Golden Dragon

Roland Schimmelpfennig, translated by David Tushingham
Traverse 2

The Golden Dragon is one of those Pan-Asian restaurants that are springing up in cities across Europe. Roland Schimmelpfennig uses it as a starting point for an oblique exposé of the troubled lives of the immigrants who people such establishments.

He also goes a step further, taking us into the flats above and beside the shop to view the topic from a slightly wider perspective.

Under Ramin Gray's direction, the cast of five and set are equally anonymous, the former swapping roles and gender with alacrity, the latter no more than four rolls of white paper. There are, though, some props to aid what is basically 75 minutes of storytelling.

The two main characters, around whom all of the others circle, are a Chinese boy and girl who might be brother and sister.

The girl is introduced through a fable about an ant and a grasshopper. She is the latter, an insect enslaved and broken - prostituted by the ant-shopkeeper.

The boy fares little better, working all hours in a cramped, over-heated kitchen. His fate is sealed when a sore tooth becomes unbearable and, following an amateur piece of dentistry, leaves him bleeding to death.

The cast work hard to paint pictures of these sad lives and those of the people with whom the immigrants interact. Thanks to their efforts, The Golden Dragon is a poignant reminder of what might be going on just up the road from any one of us.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher