Theatre review: Made in China 2.0, Malthouse

What's the role of the artist if not to provoke and to challenge?

Sometimes you need a good reminder that expansive, bedazzling, high-tech sets are not a prerequisite when it comes to making an impact and this intimate, one-person, one-hour show reveals how powerful storytelling can be when stripped back to its core elements.

Made in China 2.0, is created and performed by Wang Chong, a Beijing theatre director known for his experimental, political and subversively charged approach to art. The contents of this show however cannot be disclosed on request by Chong.

Without then going into detail about exactly what Made in China 2.0 elucidates, the show nonetheless provides an eyebrow-raising account of creative freedoms, code words and symbols, visibility and erasure, propaganda, and taboos for artmakers.

The stage is simply dressed. There’s a board behind Chong covered with blank papers (we learn the significance of them later on). There’s a table, a number of props and a video screen that variously magnifies the actions and facial expressions of the director-turned-actor. The only other concession is the liberal use of a smoke machine. Other than that, Made in China 2.0 relies simply on Chong – who is charismatic and compelling – and his tale of risk-taking in the theatre space and how he both courts and deflects controversy.

Read: Theatre review: Macbeth, Sydney Opera House

This is a truly beguiling show and if there’s one takeaway message it’s this: artists will always find a way to antagonise, needle and provoke the prevailing status quo.

Made in China 2.0

Writer, co-director, performer: Wang Chong
Co-director and production designer: Emma Valente
Co-designer: Emma Lockhart Wilson
Dramaturg: Mark Pritchard
Touring production manager: Edwin Cheah

Made in China 2.0 will be performed until 19 March 2023.

Thuy On is the Reviews and Literary Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her debut, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was released by University of Western Australia Publishing (UWAP). Her second collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Her third book, Essence, will be published in 2025. Twitter: @thuy_on Instagram: poemsbythuy