The popcorn handed out to the audience on the way in to see Made in China's two-handed dissection of happiness is as playfully deceptive as everything that follows. The black-clad young woman standing atop a platform licking an ice lolly who greets us similarly wrong-foots any implied fun and games. Over its fifty minute duration, however, Tim Cowbury's script morphs into an increasingly manic and unreliable memoir of apparently shared experience in search of meaning.
The woman on the platform is Jess. The young man that slinks on sporting a Sideshow Bob hair-do is Chris. As the pair gaze out at the audience, they claim to be best friends. In-between downing cans of beer pulled from an ice-box beside Jess, the duo tell elaborate shaggy-dog stories and do dance routines to David Bowie's Rebel Rebel and Susan Cadogan's reggae take on Hurt So Good. They cover themselves in flour and tomato ketchup, putting themselves through dramatic endurance tests as their words and actions become more desperate and frenetic. Where Jess and Chris look for eternal salvation, they remain stuck with an endless round of cheap thrills, sugar rushes and bad memories.
Developed at Forest Fringe by Cowbury with performers Jessica Latowicki and Christopher Brett Bailey, and with support by the National Theatre Studio, this is a quirkily realised and often very funny study of how memories become myths. Among all the live art detritus, In the end, it's as if fairy-tale trouble-makers Hansel and Gretel had discovered an off licence next to the sweet shop and rewritten Samuel Beckett's Happy Days in their own messed-up image.
The Herald, November 13th 2012