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RICE starring BMEG’s Hsiao-Ling Tang

“Michele Lee’s whip-smart, finely tuned and ultimately very moving Rice simply has none of the usual flaws of new work.

It’s not overlong, isn’t groaning with self-importance and is ­clearly a script that has paid its dramaturgical dues. There’s not a word out of place and it never loses momentum.

In a ripping odd-couple yarn that’s simple in means and yet epic in resonance, ambitious ­corporate brat Nisha (Kristy Best) raises hell with the office’s Chinese cleaner Yvette (Hsiao-Ling Tang) in a daily ritual ­centred on the removal or otherwise of the after-hours takeaway scraps.

Still young enough to know everything, Nisha works late, ­because she’s got this scheme, you see, to sell rice to the Indians. ­Genius. She’s amazing. Just ask her. Yvette, on the other hand, has seen more of life and, unlike her blindly ambitious tormentor, has known failure.

And there’s the troubling ­matter of Yvette’s activist daughter, in legal strife because she ­pelted the Coles boss with his own rotting vegetables.

Anyway, after an uneasy ­detente is declared, Nisha goes off to India to seal the deal, and that’s when things get really interesting, as Nisha’s ruthlessness self-­reveals as naivety, and she ­confronts the inevitable lived­experience realisation that self-assurance is usually self-delusion.

Superbly acted by Best and Tang with joy, relish and stage chemistry, the direction from Griffin’s Lee Lewis is pinpoint.

And it needs to be. Perfectly conceived for postage-stamp ­spaces and no budgets, the early scenes require fast gear-shifts as the two actors transform into all the bit players — like the boss, the boyfriend, the daughter and the obstructive Indian official.

For a moment it teeters in “what-the?” territory, but such is the consistency of the theatrical aesthetic and the brilliance of its execution that the moment-on-the-brink passes.

And from there it’s showtime. Lee’s often very funny script is filled with crisp one-liners, terrific dialogue and a Brechtian awareness that this is theatrical story­telling, right down to a breath­taking moment when the ­aud­ience is reassured that nothing, at that point, is happening.”

Article from The Australian, Written by Martin Buzzacot.

Photo by Stephen Henry via The Australian

Rice, by Michele Lee. Queensland Theatre and Griffin Theatre Company. Griffin Theatre, Sydney, July 22-August 26. HotHouse Theatre, Wodonga, August 29-September 2. Duration: 90min, no interval.