Photo by Tim Nguyen
First off, get your tickets to Gateway Theatre’s Nine Dragons now.
Director Craig Hall says it came close to selling out for every night of its four week run in Calgary: “We played to 92 per cent (sold out) houses.”
The detective thriller, written by Gateway artistic director Jovanni Sy, works on many levels.
Hall says Sy carefully honed the script.
“He took four years to really knock it out of the park,” Hall says.
Nine Dragons began its world premiere tour at Calgary’s Vertigo Theatre before moving on to two-and-a-half-week run at Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, where word-of-mouth drove ticket sales up as well. The play is a Vertigo, Royal Manitoba and Gateway production.
Vertigo Theatre specializes in mysteries, Sy says, “so it was an obvious fit.”
Director Hall sets the scene saying the play has resonance today.
“It’s Hong Kong 1920: our main character is Tommy Lam, the best detective on the colonial Hong Kong police force but because he is Chinese, he can only rise so far. He’s the one trying to solve the serial murder of a bunch of Chinese women, because the colonial force isn’t interested.
“Suddenly a white woman is murdered in the same fashion and everybody’s motivated. The whole force is mobilized,” he says.
But Tommy is no longer lead detective. He’s put under the supervision of an inexperienced white police officer.
The plot thickens.
“Tommy’s main suspect happens to be the son of the wealthiest Chinese man in China. And of course the colonial force doesn’t want to have anything to do with that so he goes rogue,” says Hall.
The Globe and Mail in their review said: “Nine Dragons looks (with video design by Jamie Nesbitt, sets by Scott Reid and lights by Anton de Groot) and sounds (courtesy of Andrew Blizzard) as beautiful as it does sinister."
Some of what Hall describes as his stellar cast may be familiar to Richmond audiences.
John Ng appears on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience and Scott Bellis is a regular fan favourite at Bard on the Beach.
Hall says about 12 per cent of the show is in Cantonese with English subtitles.
“It’s nice you actually get to hear Tommy’s genuine voice and not what he has to be for his colonial superiors.”
The production design has embedded the English subtitles with a screen blended into the set, as part of the play, not an add-on.
“We have an excellent design team and actors. They are from all over the place.”
The team for the original Calgary production has stayed together for the entire world premiere tour.
“I’m excited to be back in the groove with them because I love the show. The more time I spend with it, the more I love it,” he says.
Speaking of the cultural issues we face here today, Hall says: “I think there is all that deeper resonance of the piece. Really, at it’s base, this is a genre play, a fantastic play. This is a fantastic nail-biting crime thriller.”
Nine Dragons runs evenings at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre from April 12 to April 21 with two additional matinees, one of which is a tea matinee with free cakes and tea provided before the performance courtesy Gilmore Gardens and Anna’s Cakes.
The other matinee will have traditional Chinese subtitles for the entire production so bilingual families can enjoy and support local theatre together.
Tickets are available through gatewaytheatre.com or in person at the Gateway Theatre box office.