Project Atom Boi, VAULT Festival

By Luisa De la Concha Montes

Project Atom Boi follows the story of Yuanzi (Xiaonan Wang), a doomer who, pressured by a self-indulgent Filmmaker (Francesca Marcolina), starts re-exploring the memories of her childhood in China. Yuanzi grew up in Factory 404, a Cold War ghost town in the Gansu province that was built in the fifties with the sole purpose of hosting a nuclear weapon. As Yuanzi travels back in time, we also meet her childhood best friend Erdan and her grandfather (both played by Kelvin Chan).

Continue reading

Life and Death of a Journalist, VAULT Festival

Image result for life and death of a journalist, vault festival

by Meredith Jones Russell

Life and Death of a Journalist follows Laura, an English reporter who returns home from Hong Kong to be offered the job of a lifetime on a China-backed newspaper. However, as the paper goes to further lengths to appease its censor-happy investors, Laura gets more conflicted about her journalistic ethics.

Continue reading

Lost Laowais, VAULT Festival

Image result for lost laowais, vault festival

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.

Continue reading

Pah-La, Royal Court

Image result for pah-la, royal court

by Marc Hayes

Meaning ‘father’, the word Pah-La is also inflected with a term of respect; ‘La’ is a sign of formality, and becomes more like ‘Dear Father’ in a crude translation. It is a richly ironic title then. Pah-La takes aim at the social and emotional structures of patriarchal revenge, and explores a radically non-violent alternative.

Continue reading

Forgotten, Arcola Theatre


By Laura Kressly

Old Six and his wife Second Moon are poor but have a new baby. Eunich Lin is constantly ridiculed for his lack of balls and family’s poor timing. Big Dog doesn’t know his real name and loves smoking a bit too much. Apart from the love of performing Chinese opera to their friends and families, there’s little else that brings joy to this rural village in Shandong Province. But when the villagers hear that the British and French are recruiting men to work in labour camps to support the WWI troops, this could be a way to change their fortunes.

Continue reading

Chinglish, Park Theatre

Since the Print Room came under fire for whitewashing a Howard Barker play set in China earlier this year, three notable productions featuring East Asian actors graced UK stages. At different venues and produced by different companies, they were too close in time to the Print Room’s racism and to each other to be a deliberate, unified challenge. Instead, they optimistically indicate a sea change in on-stage visibility of East Asian actors. Perhaps they will no longer be relegated to silent maids, martial artists and geeky mathematicians; instead they will take on leading roles that showcase the diverse talent of British theatre.

Continue reading

Snow in Midsummer, Swan Theatre

In 2012, The RSC drew ire for its Orphan of Zhao casting in which there were a whole three East Asian actors. Though the production went ahead, RSC artistic director Greg Doran showed willing to listen and bring about change, meeting with Equity’s Minority Ethnic Members Committee. Now, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s modern adaptation of a Chinese ghost story with an entirely East Asian cast is on stage at the Swan. It’s commendable progress even though there’s still a long way to go in British theatre.

Continue reading

A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Tang Xianu and Shakespeare were writing about similar themes at the same time, on opposite sides of the world but never met. Teaming up to create a cross cultural performance, Leeds University and International Business and Economics University (UIBE) in China each took a play from each other’s culture and created a new play inspired by the foreign text. Inspired by the Chinese legend of Sophora, a spirit of the woods associated with visions and dreams, UIBE chose A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Adding multiple levels of reinterpretation, they swap the lovers’ genders and who fancies who in order to comment on gender roles in China and the pressures young people face. Performed in English, the students struggle to connect to the emotion behind the words but their adaptation is a complex and clever commentary on relationships and social expectations.

The Sophora Nest Hotel, run by three nameless staff members with otherworldly powers, is an escape from university studies for glamorous young couple Lysander and Hermia. They are followed by their friend Helena, who’s in love with Lysander, and Helena brings along Demetrius, the geeky, shy boy who will do anything for her. Helena is blind to his love, and instead uses him more as servant than a friend. Mostly in contemporary language, the lovers’ plot thread from the original unfolds but rather than the boys being drugged, its the girls, who then both fall in love with Demetrius. Lysander, who orders Hermia around to no end, needs to learn to not take advantage of her. Helena needs to do the same with her devoted sidekick.

All the chopping and changing from the original is wonderfully refreshing, and effectively communicates our need to open our eyes to those right in front of us rather than focusing on our own wants. Other themes emerge as well, particularly the pressure on women that results from being under their father’s thumb, then their husband’s. All four characters also have the drive to be the sexiest, cleverest and have the fanciest gadgets. Though China is so far away, it’s both comforting and disconcerting that young people feel this the world over.

The three hotel staff add a lovely dynamic. One is purely logical and analyses the hotel guests’ behaviour. A second wants to play tricks, and the third tries to maintain harmony between the first two. The emphasis on balance between this trio and the lovers feels distinctly eastern, and one worth worth considering in the west.

Though still maintaining an amount of student-level execution, the insight these Chinese young people provide through their script is provocative, relevant and culturally eye-opening.

A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming runs through 13th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.