Playwright Christopher Chen needs audiences to really feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t belief consolation, in his thoughts, or in others. He needs us all to be digging, questioning, poised on the road between perception and doubt.
“That’s the finest theatre,” he says, from his dwelling on the west coast of the US. “Particularly since theatre is only a complete bunch of individuals speaking. That’s the place the juice, and the vitality is. The place the leaning ahead in your seat comes from. From feeling uncomfortable.
“And in my deepest coronary heart of hearts I really feel like that’s the best way it is best to dwell your life as nicely. To not be uncomfortable, I assume, however to be alert.”
Chen’s breakout play, 2014’s Caught, is about to have its Australian premiere at Crimson Sew. It’s an ethical maze that begins with an artwork gallery internet hosting a retrospective of a legendary Chinese language dissident. However every little thing will not be what it appears. From scene to scene the play peels away assumptions to disclose a deeper “reality” – which can once more be confounded.
“I simply like to create a really attention-grabbing construction and vessel [for a play] … versus one thing that’s extra free-flowing or stream of consciousness,” Chen says. “I made a decision each scene on this play goes to negate the truth of this factor that got here earlier than, and I wished to go in [to that] so far as I may. And that turned fantastically enjoyable and illuminating to me, the method of consciously going with this rule I made for myself.”
This play didn’t simply make his title in American theatre – it helped him realise what he wished to do with it.
“It hardened in me this impulse I’ve at all times had, and that’s to have performs that put forth this supreme of digging, that there are at all times extra ranges and layers beneath the floor which you could discover. And in doing so I find yourself discovering new issues, even about myself. Like, if I problem the assumptions of a personality, what would my assumptions be? I’d actively attempt to do some deep self-examination, and put that into the play … my very own insecurities and questions, issues I might not be certain about.
“After which there’s a sort of integrity and honesty with what [the characters] are wrestling with, as a result of it syncs up with what I’m wrestling with myself.”
Chen is “half Chinese language and half white, cut up proper down the center,” he says. In a way, the play was these halves interrogating one another. He’d arm both sides with as a lot mind and empathy as he may, and set them to wrestling. He may name out racism, and concurrently check himself for unseen, unexamined racism. He may get into “tough, actually tough conversations”.