Directed by Sacha Wares, this co-production between the Young Vic, American Repertory Theater and Actors Touring Company condenses the hundreds of pages of her 1991 book into less than 90 minutes running time.

Much of that is taken up, intentionally, by labour intensive scene changes and the acting is uneven. Yet her story (which follows three generations of Chinese women from 1948 -1978) is gripping and the sets remarkable as earth gives way to propaganda posters, and endless paddy fields to the bustle of the city.

At the centre is Chang’s mother De-Hong (Ka-Ling Cheung) who, in contrast to her own mother (once the privileged concubine of a warlord) espouses Communism and marries a principled man whose uncompromising behaviour leads to hardship, imprisonment and conflict within the family when he feels compelled to question Mao’s regime, no matter what the consequences.

One leaves the theatre with a strong sense of the personal cost of China’s cultural and political  upheaval in the not so distant past – and even more with the feeling that (if, like me, you haven’t already read it) it would be well worth immersing oneself in Chang’s multi-million copy selling original.

Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ
Tube: Southwark / Waterloo
Until May 13
£10 – £29.50