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A CurtainUp London Review
Jingo - A Farce of War
The first act is strewn with appalling racist expressions as the jingoistic British refer to the Japanese as "little yellow men" and the Chinese as "Chinks" and a chastening thought is that this isn't fantasy, but the way people spoke and behaved in the 1940s. Arrogance doesn't start to describe them. Gwendoline lords it over the servant while Ian talks in a peculiar language to the Chinese servant ending every word with a double "ee", like this, "Wong Swee, you go-ee talk-ee to the cook-ee. . ."
The Second Act sees the British up against it, having realised that they are taking a drubbing and the only recourse for most is to get on a ship and get out of Singapore. A rubber planter who has lost an ear A rubber planter who has lost an ear (Paul Mooney) persuades George to rescue his Chinese girl, Shirley (Vera Chok) by taking her back to Singapore. Later in the play we see Shirley crossing the stage and each time looking more distressed and more dishevelled from the happy, pretty girl we first saw. Gwendoline is staying in a hotel room with Percy (Roger Braban) and getting increasingly desperate, "one's chit has been refused". The British have destroyed the supplies of whisky and spirits so that it shouldn't fall into Japanese hands but have forgotten to keep stocks for themselves. They are incapable of dealing with this crisis without alcohol. The soldiers, George and Ian arrive, bloodied and dirty, desperate for some water to wash in and visibly shocked by the Japanese onslaught.
Despite the odds, like scum, Gwendoline seems to rise to the surface and makes it to Australia. I had rather wanted her to become one of the Japanese so-called comfort women but she escapes this fate. Susannah Harker is very fruity and I loved her confiding asides to the audience. Anthony Howell plays her lover with a quiet passion. The whole cast pull their weight and Jingo is interestingly revived for the first time since 1975.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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