Top British racing driver Tyler Jones arrives in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix. His life is airports, hotels, racetracks, corporate events and ‘brolly dollies’. For Tyler, Shanghai is no different from Bahrain or Melbourne. He’s happy to toe the corporate party line as long as he can do what he lives to do: race cars. But when he meets and falls for Chinese dissident Pin-de, their worlds collide.
Racing ambition seems suddenly futile set against Pin-de’s struggle for survival in authoritarian China. How can he square his newfound awareness about the reality of life and death in China, and help Pin-de, without losing everything he has?
When Formula One rolls into Shanghai for the annual Chinese Grand Prix, egotistical former world champion Tyler hits a crossroads. Is his team about to drop him in favour of a Chinese driver? The growing importance of Chinese money to the sport – and to everything else in the globalised economy – makes it a distinct possibility. And will he do the right thing when he becomes embroiled in a high-stakes family tussle with major political ramifications?
Tim Luscombe’s play goes behind the ‘Great Firewall of China’ to reflect on the value of free trade without free thought. The script is strong on ideological ironies and the perversions of power, while its analysis of the way in which ‘things are moving East’ could hardly be more topical or on the button.
As a writer-director, Tim Luscombe doesn’t shirk the big subjects. His last play, The Schuman Plan, dealt with the European federal dream. His new one tackles both Formula One motor racing and Chinese political oppression.
I admire Luscombe’s audacity, and, to his credit, [he] exposes the dodgy dealings of the Formula One world, where billionaire businessmen ruthlessly call the shots. He is also one of the few British dramatists to confront the fact that China, for all its embrace of a market economy, remains an oppressive, militaristic dictatorship.
[…] Luscombe’s fury at what he clearly regards as the West’s reluctance to tweak the dragon’s tail of such a powerful trading partner blazed through the play and his production, bedecked with brand names such as Vodafone, Apple and Starbucks, gets off to a flying start. This work is full of passion, and forcefully reminds us that as Pin-de exasperatedly points out, freedom means much more than merely “being free to buy things”.