During the extended nomadic period imposed by the major redevelopment of its building, Birmingham Rep has become involved in a number of interesting partnerships in unusual theatre spaces.
Hopefully this will leave behind a legacy of lateral thinking when the Rep returns to its shiny new palace next year. But having said that, I wish I could have been more enthusiastic about this collaboration with Yellow Earth, a London-based company of East Asian writers and actors.
It certainly looked promising in prospect: a quartet of short plays (expanded to a quintet by the addition of a new piece which was given a read performance), with dim sum served pre-show and a post-show buffet also included in ticket price. What could possibly go wrong?
But unfortunately it needed a more professional edge to bring it off than Yellow Earth seemed able to provide.p Too much of the writing, and particularly the acting, had the hollow feel of student drama.
The best pieces were the first and last. Jeremy Tiangs Butterfly introduced our hostess for the evening, who explained that she had adopted her name from Madam Butterfly, having mistakenly left the opera at the interval under the impression that it had a happy ending. After subsequently seeing the second half she complained that it had obviously been stolen from Miss Saigon.
This is actually quite funny, and Tina Chiang is an immediately engaging performer who proved good company throughout the evening in her various links and cameo roles.
She was also very funny in Clare Sumis Nighthawks, a shaggy dog story about the coming together of a jilted girl and a suicidal rogue trader on the run in a Japanese restaurant. This also featured a striking, interestingly stylised performance by Louise Mai Newberry as the restaurants proprietor.
The rest was less impressive, generally inclining towards blandness. An exception in that respect was Thanh Le Dangs Nui Ah, which was about a couple who ate their baby daughter when facing starvation during the cultural revolution, and which managed to be even creepier than that brief description might suggest.
Until Thursday (Returns only)