Two terrifically talented performers steam, boil and fry through ninety long grain minutes of Michelle Lee’s Rice.
Kristy Best is Nisha, a highly strung high flyer working her arse to break the ceiling of glass in Australia’s largest rice producer, multinational conglomerate, Golden Fields. It’s a pressure cooker job made all the more combustible as she instigates a move that will have her company at the centre of India’s rice distribution. Of Bengali descent, Nisha’s prodigious ambition stems from her widowed grandmother’s sacrifice of emigrating to Australia in search of a better life for her family.
Hsiao-Ling Tang is Yvette, first generation Chinese who is the office cleaner at Golden Fields. She is, in almost every way, the opposite end of the spectrum, a failed entrepreneur and single mother dealing with a rebellious daughter.
These two actors are marvellous enough as the two main characters, but each adds simmer to a variety of supporting characters of varying age, ethnicity and gender.
Michelle Lee’s script is dense and sticky. There’s a lot to digest as there are many ingredients in this pilaff of a play – a heady broth of gender, generation and globalisation.
In the programme notes, Michelle Lee writes: “initially I said Rice was about a plethora of big contemporary issues….mass agriculture, super economies, mercenary corporations, women in business. Rice is about these things. But it’s probably, primarily, about two women searching out for new friendships and new intimacies, new versions of family, however fleeting.” Thankfully, director Lee Lewis and her sublime performers are able to manifest Lee's vision, with a focused concentration that requires equal concentration from the audience.
A closely watched plot sees the emotions boil over but never boil dry.
Renee Mulder’s clean line design functional, sterile, rice white panel walls a with paddy field green carpet is simple, subtle and serviceable and Jason Glenright’s lighting design oscillates between suitably stark office fluorescent with warmer hues nicely delineating the sterility of the office politics from the bounty of basic human connection.
A boon to stage management as the actors pick up after themselves, even vacuuming the carpet, this production of Rice has so many grains of truth about the messiness of life and addresses them honestly, humanly and, often, hilariously.
Griffin Theatre Company presents
by Michele Lee
Director Lee Lewis
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 21 July – 26 August 2017
Tickets: $55 – $35
A co-production with Queensland Theatre