Eastern Star looks back to Burma’s 1988 revolution, comparing the viewpoints of a British Journalist and a Burmese Human Rights lawyer who reveals himself as “an architect of the revolution”. Focusing on these two men and their relationship since the revolution, Eastern Star has recent history at its heart, making this an informative piece if nothing else.
There is a nice symmetry to the writing of the play that contrasts journalist Christopher Gunness’s life in London with his husband Jake, with U Nay Min’s post-prison existence with his niece, Maya. While Gunness is an acclaimed journalist whose broadcasts from Myanmar catapulted him to fame and success, Nay Min who fed the stories that led to Gunness’s success, suffered 16 years in prison and his story remains untold.
This piece of theatre reveals Nay Min’s story and Gunness’s less that heroic role in Nay Min’s imprisonment. However, while the initial premise is compelling and the story does keep you engaged throughout, there are several points in Guy Slater’s writing where telling overtakes showing. It can feel a little like a history lesson rather than a piece of theatre, and the production suffers because of it.
That said, it is not without merit. David Yip puts in an impassioned performance as the Buddhist U Nay Min trying to fight the anger he feels at his post-revolution fate. Michael Lumsden’s Christopher Gunness is strong in portraying his relationship with his husband Jake – played by Patrick Pearson – and the Archers’ star’s radio voice is ideal for the flashbacks to Gunness’s news reports. However, he does seem to falter a little when confronted with David Yip’s emotionally charged Nay Min. Likewise, Julie Cheung-Inhin, while making the most of her role, doesn’t quite match Yip’s verve.
The use of lighting works particularly well in this piece as a means to change the scene, or to flash back to the past, and the stage design, while a little rough around the edges, is well balanced and manages to hold the two worlds of London and Myanmar without it ever feeling too crowded.
Eastern Star is an effective historical drama that is thorough in the telling of this tale, but sometimes relies too much on history so that sadly the emotion becomes a little lost.
Eastern Star is playing Tara Theatre until 29 September. For more information and tickets, click here.