Rick Lau got an unusual reaction when he told his friends about his latest role.

After I sent out the email to my friends about that, I got a few back from them telling me not to tell the Chinese government about the role, that that might be detrimental to my family.

The response was understandable.

In the current Sydney production of Edward Albee’s Box and Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, Hong Kong-born Lau channels the former Chinese dictator.

But in the play we’re not trying to resemble him physically, but the spirit of him, Lau says.

Written in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, Albee’s play is a deeply abstract affair.

Box is really just a voice and then the Quotations part is when the actors come on stage and do their thing, Lau says.

It is four monologues done by four individuals on the deck of a ship, searching for order.

One character is called the Old Woman, one is called the Long-Winded Lady and the other one is Minister.

It’s a little bit abstract and it’s kind of like an installation piece, which is not what you usually see in the theatre.

Despite being nearly 40 years old, Albee’s play retains a chilling relevance to contemporary Australia, Lau says.

One of the quotations that I say in the play is, -˜If the US monopoly capitalist groups persist in pushing their policies of aggression and war, the day is bound to come when they will be hanged by the people of the whole world. The same fate awaits the accomplices of the United States.’

Box and Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung is on the Parade Studio, NIDA, until 9 September. Book on 132 849.

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