VAULT – The Lamb Disagrees ★★★

The Lamb Disagrees is Eratle Wang’s very first theatre play explores the shallowness and racism of certain fictional tropes.

When his literary agent Sam struggles to get interest in his new crime story, novelist Aaron hits upon the idea of adding some feminism and diversity to his failing whodunit. To this end, he creates the character of “Willow”, a Chinese immigrant, to become embroiled and implicated in the death of Charlotte, the wife of her boyfriend James! 

Whilst researching the character Willow, played convincingly by Chih Ling Liu, Aaron takes to a dating app and meets Lily in order to question her about her experiences in London as a Chinese immigrant. While recounting her stories, things take an unexpected turn. Lily drugs and restrains Aaron, only to become the character Willow. She is determined to change the course of her narrative from scapegoat to protagonist, and wipe away his outdated trope of a white male detective with a troubled past. 

Eratle Wang presents a fascinating premise in this her first theatre play. Neatly riffing on Pirandello’s Six Characters In Search of an Author, her narrative sees a muse comes to life in order to change the narrative of their story. Additionally in this case, helpfully she also provides an answer as to who killed Charlotte –  the mystery of the whodunit story that writer Aaron had failed to resolve.  

What currently reduces the effectiveness of the play is its short length (only 45 minutes). No sooner than we are introduced to Lily/Willow and the premise is set up, than we skip to the denouement where the cast present the finished whodunit. With a longer running time, there would have been more scope to enhance the storytelling with greater interaction and negotiation between Willow and Aaron, between character and author, to allow the narrative to grow more organically within the stated premise. 

Raphaël Lecat plays the dual role of Aaron and James with considerable dexterity. While writer Aaron has a quirky, likeable energy, by contrast he switches into the character of the somewhat manipulative James with just the aid of some glasses.  

Elena Harding plays both the deceased Charlotte and Aaron’s agent Sam with a quiet control. The pace dips when as Charlotte, she retells her childhood backstory to Willow. It feels too much of an info dump in order to set up the motive for her murder rather than a convincing interaction. The scene may have been enhanced if we had seen Willow and Aaron thrashing out the details of the backstory. A to-and-fro between creators debating how to present this story information could have underscored the play’s underlying theme of what is written, what is presented and excluded, in the creative process.  

The Lamb Disagrees has an intriguing and entertaining premise but there’s a compelling need for a longer running time. More conflict and greater exploration of the themes would only enhance the potential of the piece. 

The Lamb Disagrees currently serves too small a portion ★★★

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