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Hungry Ghosts

    by Tim Luscombe


Drama Play Script: 'Hungry Ghosts' by Tim Luscombe

China and England have been locked in an abusive and retributive relationship for centuries. In fact, to a large extent, the Chinese Communist Party is all about winning back for China the dignity it lost after the humiliating 19th Century Opium Wars with the English. 

But for purely economic reasons, it suits Europe to trade with China today. So people want to believe that its newfound prosperity and engagement with the international community softens its political system. It hasn’t worked out like that. 

Perhaps the Olympics created an impression of openness and transparency. Tourists think they’ve found another bigger Thailand. But, Hungry Ghosts suggests, we should remember that China’s current leadership is in power only because in 1989 it successfully suppressed a fragile but potent democracy movement. 

Since ’89, the CCP have striven to block any political liberalisation and have crushed every attempt by dissidents to find some small space within which to manoeuvre towards democracy. Some tentative reforms made in the ’80s have been reversed. Politically, things have deteriorated. 

China, according to many, is turning into a digital police state, with technology from iris and gait recognition being deployed to monitor activists, ethnic minorities in places like Xinjiang, and regular citizens. 

Along with China, another subject rarely out of the headlines, for better or worse, is motor racing, the pinnacle of which is Formula One. China and F1 – newsworthy for very different reasons, perhaps. Can they really have anything in common? 

Hungry Ghosts hurls these two mega-subjects together and, in doing so, explores how Britain’s relationship to the world’s new superpower is morphing. The play is set this year or next, around the traditional Chinese tomb-sweeping holiday, otherwise known as the festival of Hungry Ghosts. 

In Shanghai, when the Formula One circus comes to town, capitalist West and communist China clash at the international racing circuit. 

Tyler Jones is a racer. He’s never been particularly aware of anything outside of the small, exclusive, European world of motor racing, never noticed much about where he’s racing, least of all its politics. But Formula One’s moving east, and at the Shanghai Racing Circuit, prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, Tyler meets Xia Pin-de, a woman in need of help. Her sister’s been arrested for treason. She needs a Westerner to get information out of China in order to try and save her sister’s life. 

Will Pin-de get the help she needs? Will Tyler be distracted from his ambition to win the Grand Prix and claim his race seat for next year? What happens if Tyler falls for China and for Pin-de and wants to run away from the circus? Will the corporatist West let him go?


(minimum 3m, 2f)

  • Zhi-hui - late 40’s (m)
  • Tyler - mid 30’s
  • Liv - early 30’s
  • Pin-de - mid 40’s (f) could double with Woman
  • Baz - 50’s up
  • Woman - could double with Pin-de
  • 3 x Buddhists in the temple (could be doubled by Pin-de, Liv and Baz)

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