Lost Laowais, VAULT Festival

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by Lizzie Jackson

A greater force does a good job of weaving together the lives of these lost Lǎowàis, causing many awkward, funny, and heartfelt moments to materialise. The term ‘Lǎowài’ means ‘foreigner’ or more literally ‘cold outsider’, which is telling of the reason that fate keeps bringing this bunch of misfits together.

This play explores what it means to feel at home through the lack of acceptance the characters all encounter in Beijing. But as the audience never sees any examples of behaviour showing this intolerance from native people, it is difficult to understand what made these Lǎowàis feel this way. Despite this, the play tackles some thought-provoking stories such as the British-born Chinese woman who does not feel at home in China, as well as a British writer who lived there for 20 years. However, it would have been useful for the audience to be shown on stage why they felt his way, so they could empathise with the characters more fully.

It is wonderful to see a cast diverse in age, gender and ethnicity, and there are moments where they are interesting to observe as a group because of their contrasting personalities and situations. However, the characters are not fully realised at this stage of the production. This was partially because many events take place, making the scenes feel a bit rushed. Because of this, there isn’t the space for deeper character development. A longer version of this play could build up tension more effectively to make the climax more impactful, and reveal a more in depth and complex side of the characters personalities.

Lost Lǎowàis runs through 9 February.

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