The courtroom always provides the perfect setting for an
exciting drama. China National Theater Company's first production
of 2006, The Deadly Game, presents a story set not exactly
in a courtroom but a retired lawyer's home.
Despite a few minor shortfalls, the two-act play, which is
running at the Oriental Avant-Garde Theater till February 5, has a
strong story line.
The story begins with a snowstorm in the Swiss Alps forcing
American salesman Howard Trapp to knock on the door of retired
lawyer Emile Carpeau. The old lawyer is hosting a private dinner
party for the judge Bermice Laroque and former prosecutor Gustav
The three convince Trapp to participate in a court game, which
has Trapp playing defendant on trial for his life. Kummer as
prosecutor gradually delves into Trapp's past unearthing a "murder"
for which Trapp must defend his life. The battle of wits, which
follows, is peppered with philosophical debates as well as black
humour, wrapped in a cape of melodrama.
Director Wu Xiaojiang portrays an interesting yet believable
story. The dark setting designed by Yan Long conveys the play's
sinister tone. The lighting designer Xing Xin uses strong
spotlights effectively to enhance a sense of suspense and mystery
in several scenes.
Huang Xiaoli plays the old lawyer Carpeau and Jiang Hua as the
judge, portraying enigmatic intellectuals with panache. Li Jianyi
is excellent as the smooth yet merciless prosecutor Kummer.
Audiences are captivated by Trapp's naive swagger and past
treachery. Actress Zhou Lin does well portraying the maid Rose who
has her own strange and shrewd ways.
The playwright Gong Yingtian, penned The Deadly Game,
basing his script on the novel Trapp by Swiss satirical
nihilist Friedrich Durrenmatt.
"I revised the play by Durrenmatt more than a dozen years ago.
When I got deep into the story, the character Trapp made me
understand my own nature. I now hope that Trapp helps the audience
understand themselves better," said Gong.
The veteran director Wu shows great interest in Durrenmatt. In
2002, he directed the Swiss dramatist's trademark work The Visit
for the National Theater Company of China.
"I love Durrenmatt's approach to the character's inner world,
self-contradictory mind and his structure of drama. Many of his
tragic comedies hide abstract philosophy," said the director.
(China Daily January 20, 2006)