Daniel Nelson

Into The Numbers

Into The Numbers

Image by Finborough Theatre

The 1937 Nanking Massacre in which Japanese soldiers butchered and raped tens of thousands - perhaps 300,000 - of Chinese soldiers and civilians is an incomprehensibly brutal event that in Into The Numbers is channelled through Iris Chang, the Chinese-American author of a conroversial, best-selling account of the bloodbath (The Rape of Nanking: The Fogotten Holocaust of World War 11).

A series of fast-moving scenes impel her – and us – through a lecture, an interview, a confrontation with a Japanese diplomat, a near violent clash with a Japanese soldier, a painful conversation with her husband, an edgy session with her doctor, and a soul-baring meeting with an US missionary who saved thousands of lives in the massacre.

It's s a clever, 90-minute play that negotiates the personal and the political, manages to pack in a mini-history and touches on big issues, including whether evil exists – though my own preference is for more Hannah Arendt and less Devil.

It's not perfect: indeed, it nearly founders at the outset with the corny lecture scene device. But this is theatre with passion and serious content. Hats of to the Finborough for staging it, and staging it so well. Truly, tiny but mighty.

* Into The Numbers is at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, SW10, until 27 January. Info: 0844 847 1652/ www.finborougharms.co.uk

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