Review: White Pearl, Royal Court

Despite a cracking design, White Pearl doesn’t convince as an effective play at the Royal Court

“It’s just a fun ad. Now the whole world is going crazy”

On the one hand, there’s lots to appreciate about White Pearl, a play about Asian women, written and directed by women of Asian descent and starring them too. Its foregrounding of non-native English voices, subject matter so atypical for the UK, its very programming on a major London stage – this is important stuff.

On the other, it’s not a fantastic piece of writing and as significant as its presence here is – something which should not be left unremarked – nothing is gained by not being frank. Anchuli Felicia King’s play straddles the world of satire and comedy but ultimately satisfies as neither and there’s a reliance on some troubling dramatic tropes. Continue reading “Review: White Pearl, Royal Court”

Review: Mountains – The Dreams of Lily Kwok, Stratford Circus

Beautiful and brutal, Mountains – The Dreams of Lily Kwok plays Stratford Circus before continuing on a tour of the UK

I invited you into my past… And you invited me into your future

It’s always a pleasure to investigate East Asian stories on our stages, an occurrence that remains all too rare in British theatres. This Royal Exchange Theatre, Yellow Earth and Black Theatre Live co-production goes some small way to address that, embarking on a UK tour after a successful run in Manchester and you hope it encourages similar work of this quality.

Based on Helen Tse’s memoir Sweet Mandarin, In-Sook Chappell’s  Mountains – The Dreams of Lily Kwok probes into the family history of the three generations of women behind the famous Manchester restaurant also named Sweet Mandarin. With food, and a love of food, at its centre, it is a frank and sometimes brutal exploration of East Asian history, viewed through the prism of the individual. Continue reading “Review: Mountains – The Dreams of Lily Kwok, Stratford Circus”

Review: Chinglish, Park

“Are you a small fish or a big pond?”

David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face was the first play mounted in the studio at the Park Theatre when it opened in 2013, so it feels apt that the playwright’s return to the venue sees him promoted to the main house for Chinglish. Seen on Broadway in 2011, it’s a more light-hearted take on East Asian issues than we are perhaps seeing in our theatres, or in the limited range of East Asian theatre that gets put on here I should say, and proves an enjoyable treat.

Riffing on the chuckles that come from mistranslated menus and signs (I swear, it is one of my favourite things to do in touristy abroad), Chinglish follows the efforts of an American businessman trying to break into the Chinese market by providing accurately translated signage. But the divide is a big one, linguistically and culturally, and as he searches for people to help in his negotiations, he learns that he can’t always trust the words coming out of their mouths.  Continue reading “Review: Chinglish, Park”

TV Review: Cuffs Episodes 5-8

“Are you one of those? They’re everywhere in Brighton aren’t they.
‘Yeah, not so many in Halifax though, cos of the weather’”

I really enjoyed the opening half of new BBC police drama Cuffs and so whacked up a review of those four episodes whilst they were still watchable on the iPlayer. The show has now finished its run, 8 episodes being the default setting for a ‘long’ series here in the UK, and whilst it may have lost a little of the fast-paced energy that characterised its arrival, its bevy of boisterous characters ensured I was fully engaged right through to the end of the last episode.

With such a large ensemble making up the South Sussex team, Cuffs did sometimes struggle in giving each of them a fair crack of the whip. For me, it was Amanda Abbington’s Jo who got the shortest end of the stick, too much of her screen-time, especially early on, being taken up with the fallout of her illicit affair instead of showing her as the more than capable police officer we finally saw in the latter episodes. Continue reading “TV Review: Cuffs Episodes 5-8”