Into The Numbers: Horrors Inescapable, 80 Years On
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Most of us can be guilty of failing to emotionally engage properly with real-life horror stories, particularly where statistics are involved. Take 1937’s Massacre of Nanjing. It’s often described as an Asian Holocaust: by some estimates, 300,000 Chinese people were killed in a rape-filled, murderous rampage by Japanese soldiers. Many laypeople in the West know little about it. But the point of Into the Numbers is that Iris Chang — a journalist who helped highlight the atrocities — was different. Might her suicide, in 2004, have happened because she was not just affected by the story, but in fact utterly consumed by it?
Elizabeth Chan (playing Chang) is one of two leads in this bare-bones production; the other is Timothy Knightley, who slips between Chang’s husband, her shrink, and a testy interviewer character who’s in some especially effective scenes. In just 90 minutes, the pair raise an almost bewildering array of questions about personal attachment, innate moral codes, and collective memory (the Nanjing horrors remain sensitive in China and dismissed or denied by some in Japan).
Although the scenes in which Chang is haunted by ghostly figures from the massacre often have the unexpected effect of breaking the spell that’s cast in the rest of the play, the overall intensity they help to build is no bad thing in such a psychological drama. Not a fun watch, but certainly an important one.
Into the Numbers, Finborough Theatre, Finborough Road, SW10 9ED, £16-18, until 27 January 2018.
Last Updated 08 January 2018