Nine Dragons, a new play written by Gateway’s Artistic Director, Jovanni Sy, is reminiscent of a classic BBC mystery series turned on its head. While keeping the dramatic, slightly silly tone of a TV murder mystery, Sy’s protagonist is a Chinese detective working in colonial Hong Kong amidst a British police force. It even had the wide array of accents that British mysteries always seem to have.
While admittedly not a masterpiece of script or stage, Nine Dragons got the story across clearly and with verve. The set, lighting, creative projections, and costumes were all subtle enough to be effective without overcrowding the story. Jamie Nesbitt’s projections were particularly useful in illuminating scene changes and locations. At one point the projections even played an entire character – a little girl – by themselves.
The cast played the style well, embellishing their characters with flourish and fun. Scott Bellis thrived as the posh detective Beverly, and changed completely for his much smaller roles as Johnson. Daniel Chen, too, was notable as Victor Fung, where he was so simultaneously sympathetic and disgusting that I couldn’t decide whether or not to like him.
Racism and corruption are mixed together in a tense, high spirited chase. Nine Dragons is exactly the kind of show that should be produced in the Lower Mainland. The dialogue needs work in some places, but the plot is thought-provoking, entertaining, and dramatic enough to entertain the whole family.
Nine Dragons runs at Gateway Theatre until April 21st. Tickets available here.
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