The King of Hell's Palace

The King of Hell's Palace

2.5 (2) · New Writing

"It doesn’t matter if the cat is white or black. As long as it catches mice, it is a very good cat."

Lyn Gardner avatar
5 September 2019  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“Based on a true story about an AIDS epidemic in rural China among peasants who sold their blood for money. This story of a major cover up is the latest from Frances Ya-Chu Cowling, whose previous dramas include ‘Snow in Midsummer’ for the RSC and ‘The World of Extreme Happiness’ for the NT. It is the first play in the first season of work announced by Hampstead’s new artistic director, Roxanna Silbert, and it focusses on a young Ministry of Health official, Yin-Yin, who must decide whether to stay silent or speak up and risk her family’s future. Former Artistic Director of the RSC, Michael Boyd, directs.”


Henan Province, 1992. China is laying the foundations for global wealth and power - business is booming. Yin-Yin, a young Ministry of Health official, finds herself recruited into a new and unusual trade that boasts infinite stock and infinite demand. But amidst the hype and the soaring profits, she rapidly uncovers an unimaginable secret that will test to the limit her loyalties to her profession, to her family and to her country…

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s blazing new thriller is based on the true story of a whistleblowing heroine and her extraordinary mission to expose a cover-up of epic proportions. Her previous plays include Lidless (Trafalgar Studios), The World of Extreme Happiness (National Theatre) and Snow in Midsummer (RSC).

Michael Boyd, former Artistic Director of the RSC, makes a highly anticipated return to Hampstead Theatre following the acclaimed 2016 hit, The Intelligent Homosexuals Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures by Tony Kushner.

Critic reviews

Chinese scandal freezes the blood

The Arts Desk

Celeste Den portrays a real-life hero who exposed how local officials were spreading HIV

The Guardian

This is a solid production but could unquestionably be a great one


Roxana Silbert’s tenure at Hampstead Theatre kicks off with this epic drama about a hushed-up blood poisoning scandal in ‘90s China

Time Out

Whistleblower drama is part Wikipedia entry, part soap opera

Evening Standard

A medical-scandal drama that we can't afford to ignore

The Telegraph

Ambitious, complex, if unsubtle exploration of a tragic scandal and cover-up

The Stage

It’s a sturdy, intelligent play and it gets a production to match

Lyn Gardner for Stagedoor

The writing is incredibly detailed, but the docudrama takes a long take time to really excite

Broadway World

An eye-catching start to Roxana Silbert’s tenure as artistic director of the Hampstead


A gripping and sobering story, pinned down in Michael Boyd’s fluid production by a performance of quiet integrity from Celeste Den as Yin Yin

Financial Times

Date & time

Show ended
Thu 5 Sep - Sat 12 Oct, 2.30pm, 3pm & 7.30pm


Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU London, UK · Get Directions
out of 5 stars
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