Thereís an adeptness to the crafting of Hungry Ghosts and an impressive articulacy of argument. As its director, Luscombe brings the play to realisation with a similar facility but, as the characters talk and yell their hearts out all evening, thereís also an absence of dramatic lift or any sense of poetry.
Conflict arises from the pitting of opposites against one another: Western capitalism (in the form of the multi-million pound industry that is Formula One) and repressive socialism; public and private faces; self-interest and human decency.
The playwright seems to have borrowed his political standpoint (and the plot-line about smuggling politically-sensitive material out of the country) from Tom Stoppard but without the same theatrical flair and, thankfully, the corny one-liners.
Luscombeís people (Iím tempted to say ciphers) are recognisable types. Thereís the innocent Englishman abroad, the bullying capitalist boss, the angry counter-revolutionary defying the authorities and the self-preserving party member. Only the PR babe, straddling both worlds, seems a wholly original creation.
Benedict Wong is excellent as the celebrity journalist whose guile and knowingness covers a pit of vulnerability. Andres Williams is Tyler Jones (the actorís name sounds more that of a racing driver than his characterís), the F1 star who grows from political naivete to do the right thing.
Lucy Sheen and Lourdes Faberes represent two types of Chinese woman, the one a heroic victim of oppression and the other a slick professional enmeshed in the ways of the West, turning a blind-eye to whatís going on in her country of origin.
The bear-like Barry Stantonís racing boss blunders from one dubious deal to another, dispensing with people as needed and writing-off cars and lives. The cast serve their writer/director well with rounded, finely-observed performances.
The plot burns as slowly as an incense stick but the gradual unfolding of theme and character does hold the attention and there are moving moments. The long scene between brother and sister revisiting the previously unspoken death of their father might just provoke a tear or two.