by Lucy Kirkwood

directed by Brian Parkinson

A United Players of Vancouver production

at Jericho Arts Centre

March 29 - April 21, 2019






Spotlight Article by Sabrina Furminger


China and America are superpowers, each mighty in its own right, and yet they’re also intertwined in ways that are at once productive and destructive. This confounding relationship is explored in Chimerica, Lucy Kirkwood’s explosive and gripping drama that looks at the human cost of state intervention.

On June 4, 1989, American photojournalist Joe Schofield snaps a photo that becomes the defining image of the Tiananmen Square Massacre: a young Chinese man standing defiantly in front of a tank, arms outstretched, with a shopping bag in each hand.

The image catapults Joe to stardom, but the fledgling photographer is consumed by questions about the so-called Tank Man. What possessed the Tank Man to stare down that tank? What happened to him in the aftermath of the massacre, a cataclysmic event that was ultimately scrubbed from Chinese history books?

Two decades pass. Joe returns to Beijing and reunites with his old friend, Zhang Lin, who lost his wife during the unrest. From Zhang Lin, Joe learns that the Tank Man might have survived the massacre and made his way to America. Joe picks up the trail, intent on discovering the truth, but what he discovers is profoundly shocking and turns everything he believed – about his work, about his relationships, and about life, love, and loss in China and America – on its head.

“I first read Chimerica last year, and my initial response to it was, ‘This is absolutely huge,’” says Brian Parkinson, director of United Players’ production of Chimerica. “There are 54 scenes, and sub-scenes within those scenes, and 34 characters, plus a lot of other characters that are non-speaking. Many of the scenes are short, and move quickly to the next, giving it a filmic quality. Some productions have had a cast of 20 or thereabouts, and our cast is 14. It’s a huge piece of theatre.”

To address the hugeness of the play, Parkinson has opted for a stripped-down, minimalist staging. The set pieces in the United Players production are modular and, like the members of the ensemble who play multiple roles, represent different locations and uses depending on the scene. Audiences will also see the famous Tank Man photograph via projection – a method Parkinson used when he directed last season’s Enron, which incidentally was written by another Lucy – Lucy Prebble – who, like Lucy Kirkwood, is an up and coming British playwright. “Their plays were a couple of years apart in the West End,” says Parkinson. “They’re both part of this new batch of exciting female playwrights who are on the scene in London, and they’re writing some very interesting material.”

The company began rehearsals in early February, and the first two weeks were spent in intense tables reads, says Parkinson, during which the script was deconstructed and the play’s many nuances and themes – including the lingering impact of the Tiananmen Square Massacre – were discussed. “We spent a lot of time talking about it,” he says. “We learned a lot from the Chinese actors in our cast. It was a lovely process. We’ve all learned a great deal.”

Kirkman’s script is bold in its exploration of the relationship between China and America, from the play’s title – a portmanteau created by combining the names of the two countries – to the abundance of characters in the play who desperately need each other but are unable to communicate their needs effectively.

“China and America both need each other, and they are in need of each other,” says Parkinson. “They rely on each other. If they come apart – and I think Mr. Trump is playing with fire right now – the world is going to be a very different place.”


United Players’ production of Chimerica features Alex Motherwell as Joe Schofield, Brian Hinson as Frank Hadley/Herb, Jordon Navratil as Mel Stanwyck, Carri Toivanen as Tessa Kendrick, Kylan Liu-Johnston as Zhang Lin, Barbara Ellison as Barb/Doreen/Maria Dubieki, Darryl B. King as Zhang Wei/Pengsi, Tim Scott as Paul Kramer/David Barker, Angus Yam as Young Zhang Lin/Benny, Olivia Poon as Liuli/Deng, Aurora Chan as Mary Chang/Jennifer Lee, Claudia Golombiewski as Judy, Wynn Siu as Feng Meihui/Ming Xiaoli, and Piril Sesli as Kate/Dawn.

The production team includes Brian Parkinson (Director), Andree Karas (Artistic Director), Fran Burnside (Production Manager), Michael Methot (Technical Director), Barbara Ellison (Assistant Director), Becky Fitzpatrick (Stage Manager), Harika Xu (Lighting/Projections Co-Designer), Vanka Salim (Lighting/Projections Co-Designer), Patrick Boudreau (Sound Designer), Liz Gao (Costume Co-Designer), Sherry Yang (Costume Co-Designer), and David Valentine (Properties Designer/Set Furnishings).


Brian Parkinson began directing professionally in England, subsequently returning to Canada to work in both academic and professional theatre. He has received awards and recognition for having made a significant and lasting contribution to Alberta’s theatrical heritage. With experience and interests ranging from the classics onwards, including musicals, revues and opera, Brian recently returned to Vancouver to continue his work as director and dialect coach. Brian directed the Jacobean tragedy, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, for Ensemble Theatre’s summer festival, and Enron, Welcome to Thebes, The Game of Love and Chance, and Company for United Players.


Lucy Kirkwood: Lucy Kirkwood is a multi-award-winning British playwright and screenwriter born in 1984. Her play Chimerica – which premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in 2013 – was a phenomenal success for Kirkwood. It transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End and won the Critics’ Circle, Evening Standard and Olivier Awards for Best New Play and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for best play in the English language by a female writer. Kirkwood was also the co-recipient of the inaugural Lee Berwin Award, designed to promote the craft of playwriting in the UK and the US.

Kirkwood’s other work includes NSFW (Royal Court, 2012); small hours (co-written with Ed Hime; Hampstead Theatre, 2011); Beauty and the Beast (with Katie Mitchell, National Theatre, 2010); Bloody Wimmin, as part of Women, Power and Politics (Tricycle Theatre, 2010); it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now (Clean Break at the Arcola Theatre, 2009; winner of the John Whiting Award); Hedda (Gate Theatre, 2008) and Tinderbox (Bush Theatre, 2008).

Kirkwood’s work for television includes E4’s series Skins (2007-13) and her original series The Smoke (Kudos/Sky One, 2014).

-With files from Drama Online

BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) NOW

At the Jericho Arts Centre - 1675 Discovery (near Jericho Beach)

March 29 - April 21, 2019

Thursday through Sunday, at 8 pm
(2pm only on April 7, 14 & 21)

$14 Preview: March 28
Talkback: April 4

Matinees: April 7, 14 & 21 at 2pm
(no evening performances on those dates)

Single Tickets: $22 - $28

Jericho Arts Centre

1675 Discovery Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6R 4K5

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