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Chimerica (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Written byLucy Kirkwood
Date premieredMay 20, 2013 (2013-05-20)
Original languageEnglish

Chimerica is a 2013 play by the British dramatist Lucy Kirkwood. It draws its title from the term Chimerica, referring to the predominance of China and America in modern geopolitics. The play premiered in London at the Almeida Theatre and was directed by Lyndsey Turner. Turner's production received several awards and was well-reviewed. A Channel 4 four-part drama of the same name based on the play was released in 2019.[1]


Playwright Lucy Kirkwood was commissioned to write the play that would become Chimerica in 2006, seven years before it eventually premiered.[2] Kirkwood estimated that she spent about 100,000 hours working on the play, some of which time was spent shortening its initially four-and-a-half hour run time.[3]

The title of the play comes from the portmanteau Chimerica, coined by Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick, referring to the significance of the sociopolitical relationship between China and America, especially in the global economy.[4] Kirkwood has also cited the similarity in sound between 'Chimerica' and the word 'chimera' as a reason for the title.[2]


Chimerica follows photojournalist Joe Schofield, who photographed the unidentified Tank Man during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. Twenty years later, Chinese dissident and ESL teacher Zhang Lin, who was present during the 1989 pro-democracy protests and subsequent massacre, assists Joe in his quest to find Tank Man. Zhang Lin's fiancee, Liuli, died in the protests and flashback scenes between Liuli and Zhang Lin appear throughout the play. Joe's journalist colleagues recommend that Joe not pursue the Tank Man. After Joe returns to America, where Lin suggests the Tank Man is living, Zhang Lin is tortured by the Chinese authorities. Joe develops a relationship with Englishwoman, Tessa, who is profiling the Chinese population so that her employer can have an advantage in China.[5] At the end of the play, it is revealed that Zhang Lin was the Tank Man.


  • Joe Schofield, an American photojournalist
  • Frank Hadley, Joe's editor
  • Mel Stanwick, a journalist
  • Tessa Kendrick, a market analyst
  • Zhang Lin, an ESL teacher and Joe's primary contact in China
  • Liuli, Zhang Lin's former fiancée, killed during Tiananmen Square protests
  • Benny, Zhang Lin's nephew
  • Zhang Wei, Zhang Lin's brother, Benny's assistant
  • Paul Kramer, in 1989 was the Beijing correspondent for The Herald
  • Feng Meihui, a Chinese businesswoman living in New York
  • Jennifer Lee, Feng Meihui's daughter
  • Maria Dubiecki, a senator
  • David Barker, Maria's assistant
  • Mary Chang, a Chinese woman living in New York
  • Ming Xiaoli, Zhang Lin's neighbour
  • Doreen, Frank's assistant
  • Michelle, an Asian-American police officer
  • Officer Hyte, Michelle's partner
  • Herb, an American tourist, married to Barb
  • Barb, an American tourist, married to Herb
  • Kate, a British reporter at Tiananmen Square
  • Deng, a young Chinese businesswoman
  • Peter Rourke, an American CEO of a company with an office in Beijing
  • Dawn, Peter's secretary
  • Judy, a lawyer for Peter's company
  • Pengsi, a Chinese man living in New York
  • Pengsi's Wife
  • Guard
  • Nurse
  • Woman in Strip Club
  • Drug Dealer[6]

Production history


Chimerica premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London from 20 May 2013 to 6 July 2013, in a production co-produced with Headlong[7] before transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre.[8] The production was directed by Lyndsey Turner with stage design by Es Devlin.[9]

Premiere cast

Actor[10] Character(s)[10]
Claudie Blakley Tessa Kendrick
Stephen Campbell Moore Joe Schofield
Elizabeth Chan Liuli/Jennifer
Vera Chok / Wendy Kweh Michelle/Mary Chang/Deng
Karl Collins David Barker/Peter Rourke/Paul Kramer/Officer Hyte
Trevor Cooper Frank/Herb/Drug Dealer
Nancy Crane Doreen/Maria Dubiecki/Judy
Sean Gilder Mel Stanwick
Sarah Lam Feng Meihui/Ming Xiaoli
Andrew Leung Young Zhang Lin/Benny
David K S Tse Zhang Wei/Wang Pengsi
Benedict Wong Zhang Lin
Rosie Armstrong Ensemble/Understudy for Tessa Kendrick, Doreen, Maria Dubiecki, Judy
Tina Chiang Ensemble/Understudy for Liuli, Jennifer, Michelle, Mary Chang, Deng, Feng Meihui, Ming Xiaoli
Christopher Hollinshead Ensemble/Understudy for Joe Schofield
Math Sams Ensemble/Understudy for David Barker, Peter Rourke, Paul Kramer, Officer Hyte, Frank, Herb, Drug Dealer, Mel Stanwick
Kevin Shen Ensemble/Understudy for Zhang Lin, Young Zhang Lin, Benny, Zhang Wei, Wang Pengsi

Subsequent productions

In September 2015, Chimerica was performed for the first time in the United States. The production was directed by David Muse at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C.. Rob Yang played Zhang Lin opposite Ron Menzel's Joe Schofield.[11][12]

Chimerica made its Canadian premiere at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in 2016. The production was directed by Chris Abraham and starred Evan Buliung as Joe and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Zhang Lin.[13] Filmmaker Deco Dawson provided video which was projected during the performance.[14] This production was co-produced by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and by Toronto's Canadian Stage. After playing in Winnipeg from February till mid-March, the production travelled to Toronto and played from the end of March to mid-April.[15]

Later in 2016, Chimerica played in Chicago at TimeLine Theatre under the direction of Nick Bowling.[16]

Chimerica premiered in Australia in March 2017. Kip Williams directed the Sydney Theatre Company production at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. The production starred Mark Leonard Winter as Joe and Jason Chong as Zhang Lin among the cast of 32 actors.[17]


In 2019, Channel 4 released a four-part drama called Chimerica inspired by the play. The adaptation was penned by Lucy Kirkwood who made several changes from the original script including changing the setting from 2012 to 2016. The main character in the series is called Lee Berger and is played by Alessandro Nivola.[18]


The play as a whole has been criticized for its ambitious runtime of over three hours.[16][19][20]

The Almeida production was described in one review[21] as "fluent and seductive", with a "filmic quality", with the multiple set changes well-handled. The premiere was well received and garnered many awards.

In September 2019, The Guardian writers listed it as the 10th best theatre show since 2000.[22]


Year Award Category Result Notes Ref.
2013 Evening Standard Awards Best Play Won [23]
2014 Olivier Awards Best New Play Won [24][25]
Best Director Won for Lyndsey Turner
Best Lighting Design Won for Tim Lutkin and Finn Ross
Best Sound Design Won for Carolyn Downing
Best Set Design Won for Es Devlin
Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Won for Lucy Kirkwood [26]

See also


  1. ^ White, Peter (26 January 2018). "Lucy Kirkwood's U.S./China Drama 'Chimerica' Set For C4 Adaptation".
  2. ^ a b Bowling, Nick (2016-05-11). "Interview with Lucy Kirkwood". TimeLine Theatre. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  3. ^ Jones, Alice (2019-04-17). "Lucy Kirkwood on Chimerica: 'Right now saying, 'I don't know' is the most radical state you can be in'". Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  4. ^ "Chimerica". Sydney Theatre Company. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  5. ^ Nestruck, J. Kelly (April 1, 2016). "In Chimerica, international relations get lost in translation". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  6. ^ Schachter, Erin (2016). "Study Guide: Chimerica" (PDF). Canadian Stage. Canadian Stage and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. pp. 4–5.
  7. ^ "Chimerica | Almeida Theatre, London". Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  8. ^ "Chimerica, Harold Pinter Theatre". Ambassador Theatre Group. Retrieved 7 Oct 2013.
  9. ^ Billington, Michael (2013-05-29). "Chimerica – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  10. ^ a b Chimerica Programme. London: Almeida Theatre. 2013.
  11. ^ Klimek, Chris (2015-09-18). "Chimerica at Studio Theatre, Reviewed". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  12. ^ Bochicchio, Brian (2015-09-16). "Theatre Review: 'Chimerica' at Studio Theatre". Maryland Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  13. ^ Maga, Carly (April 1, 2016). "Chimerica has stimulating ideas but underwhelming dialogue: review". The Toronto Star. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  14. ^ King, Randall (2016-02-24). "Director deals with lots of moving parts in complicated, ambitious work". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  15. ^ Schmidt, Joff (February 16, 2016). "RMTC's Chimerica is a gripping geopolitical thriller". CBC News. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Jones, Chris (May 12, 2016). "'Chimerica' takes a long dive into China, America and the media". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  17. ^ Sebag-Montefiore, Clarissa (2017-03-07). "Chimerica review – electrifying thriller traverses Tiananmen Square and modern New York". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  18. ^ Mangan, Lucy (2019-04-17). "Chimerica review – a thrillingly real drama about fake news". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  19. ^ Edwards, David (2017-05-05). "Chimerica (STC) - theatre review". The Blurb. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  20. ^ Benedict, David (2013-05-29). "Legit Review: 'Chimerica'". Variety. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  21. ^ Henry Hitchings (2013-05-29). "Chimerica, Almeida Theatre - theatre review - Theatre - Going Out". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  22. ^ Billington, Michael; Soloski, Alexis; Love, Catherine; Fisher, Mark; Wiegand, Chris (2019-09-17). "The 50 best theatre shows of the 21st century". The Guardian. Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  23. ^ Thompson, Jessie (2018-01-29). "Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica to be adapted for Channel 4". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  24. ^ Wyatt, Daisy (2014-04-13). "Oliviers 2014 winners list in full: Chimerica and The Book of Mormon were the big winners on Sunday night". The Independent. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
  25. ^ Brown, Mark. "Olivier awards 2014: Almeida theatre defeats West End giants" The Guardian, 13 April 2014
  26. ^ Trueman, Matt (2014-02-26). "Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica wins Susan Smith Blackburn playwright prize". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-04-26.
This page was last edited on 11 January 2022, at 03:21
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