It is difficult to describe Christopher Chen’s Caught without giving away too many spoilers. Caught is concerned with the relationship between truth and fiction; principally the manipulation of ‘biographical’ art for end-goal of commercial success or a good story. The production whisks the audience through a series of twists and turns. Expect to be fooled on plenty of occasions by this flirtatious piece of meta-theatre.
Descending from the audience onto the stage, Chinese artist Lin Bo (Kevin Shen) delivers a lecture on the persecution of subversive Chinese artists by his country’s government. This topic is a fresh one considering the recent plights of artists like Ai Weiwei. He proceeds to describe the gruelling conditions of his imprisonment in Detention Centre 7 as the consequence of a politically subversive art piece. Impassioned and convincing, Lin Bo’s story is eventually scrutinised upon the arrival of two New Yorker journalists who highlight cracks and flaws in his story. Richard Pryal exerts himself well in the role of a tough and unforgiving American journalist. As the cracks in Lin Bo’s story begin to widen we are swiftly whisked into the next stage of the play. Caught incorporates three different stages of plot, each revealing something new about the previous scene and we are regularly fooled.
Perhaps there are too many twists and turns over the course of one hour and twenty minutes. The first scene works very well, capturing an interesting discussion on the nature of autobiographical or revelational storytelling. However the play is a little heavy-handed as it progresses and slowly loses some of its feisty humour. It tries to do too much and grows slightly wearisome. We are introduced to Lin Bo’s artistic collaborator Bi Jean Ngo (Elizabeth Chan) in the second stage of the play as she engages with a Q&A with a gallery curator. Chen’s message loses the more sophisticated subtlety of its first part and this is a shame.
Nevertheless, Caught engages with an interesting dialogue about the equilibrium of the ‘truth’ and storytelling. Bi Jean Ngo (Elizabeth Chan) questions, ‘If Mark Twain embellished any part of his biography would he be any less revered?’ It is seemingly impossible to avoid exaggeration in storytelling. With some interesting directorial techniques from Cressida Brown and credible acting, Caught is a good play, which will certainly make you think. Even the least gullible audience members will be fooled at least once.
- By Christopher Chen
- Directed by Cressida Brown
- Starring Elizabeth Chan and Kevin Shen
- Part of the VOLTA International Festival Arcola Theatre, London
- Until 19th September 2015
- Review by Sam Pengelly
- 7 September 2015