Review Round Up: Into the Numbers, Finborough Theatre

Georgie Staight directs the European premiere of Christopher Chen’s play which commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Nanking massacre. Here’s what critics have been saying about it… 

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In December 1937, in Nanking, then capital of China, occurred one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century – the rape, torture and murder of 300,000 Chinese civilians and the systematic mass execution of soldiers by the Japanese army.

In 2004, Iris Chang, famed author of The Rape of Nanking, a chronicle of the massacre that brought it back into public consciousness, committed suicide at the age of 36. What begins as a standard lecture and interview with the celebrated author, soon descends into a surreal nightmare. As ghosts from her research appear, she tries desperately to find order in the midst of mental chaos.

The Independent: *** “It is not meant as a back-handed compliment to say that this concise, impressionistic work leaves one wanting to discover more about both the Massacre and Iris Chang.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “Into the Numbers works best as a theatrical essay, though that’s partly because its chosen situations – the literary interview and the psychiatrist’s chair – are so standard issue, they seem somewhat inert.”

The Stage: *** “The most memorable feature of the production, however, is Elizabeth Chan’s performance as Chang – she invests her with a fierce sense of purpose and clarity of thought, which makes her mental unravelling all the more wretched.”

London Theatre1: *** “To an extent the problem starts with the decision to set the play in a lecture hall with Iris delivering to the audience the shocking details of the massacre. We keep returning to the lecture and its repeated historical details which puts heavy restrictions on the drama of the piece with the action becoming as tedious as it is static.”

The Times: ** “The scenes shift from past to present, mixing historical fact with psychological terror. Yet many of the links are clunky.”

Everything Theatre: **** “It is not for the faint-hearted, but it is another fine production from Finborough Theatre that those with a strong stomach should really attempt to see.”

A Younger Theatre: “Chen’s writing is at times very lyrical, especially as he builds to an agonising finale.”

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “anchored by Chan’s committed, moving performance, Staight’s simply staged production negotiates the play’s surreal shifts between time, space and consciousness with fluidity and assurance.”

Broadway World: **** “There is urgency to the script that compels you to want to know more.”

British Theatre Guide: “the history it covers grips the interest, the direction stylish and the actors engaging.”

The Guardian: **** “Georgie Staight directs with great clarity a sombrely haunting play that reminds us of past crimes and exposes the high price paid by the individual for uncovering historical injustice.”

Evening Standard: *** “Elizabeth Chan impresses in the lead — at first catching Iris Chang’s crisp professionalism, and later showing how her passionate commitment to her project mutates into hallucinatory frenzy.”

The Spy in the Stalls: **** “As mentally and emotionally draining as it is to sit through, it is refreshing to see a production that is so intellectually stimulating.”

Into the Numbers will continue to play at the Finborough Theatre until the 27th January. For more information visit:


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