10 questions for 10 years – Ming Ho

Playwright and scriptwriter Ming Ho takes on 10 questions and reveals the unlikeliest of Josephs you ever did  hear…!

I love a show that completely takes you by surprise and the aural adventure (plus snacks!) of Citizens of Nowhere? – a show commissioned and produced by Chinese Arts Now – did just that, lingering long in the mind. So I thought I’d invite writer Ming Ho to speak a little about that show, and much more besides:

“Getting to work with the lovely cast, Jennifer Lim, Siu Hun Li (who inspired the character of Jun in the play!), and Pik-Sen Lim, a rare East Asian face on TV when I was growing up.” 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    In the wilderness. Having started out as a script editor in TV drama and moved into scriptwriting, I’d had a solid few years working on long-running series (Eastenders, Casualty etc), but my mum had been developing symptoms of dementia for probably over a decade, and her needs became pressing; as an only child with no other immediate family, I found myself spending more and more time supporting her, shuttling back and forth from our family home to my flat in London, and eventually having to arrange residential care for her and sell the house. She’s been in care for 8 years now in two different homes and is at a very advanced stage. In 2013, I started a blog about our experiences, Dementia Just Ain’t Sexy, and have since become heavily involved in campaigning re dementia and carer issues, sitting on the Carers Advisory Panel of Dementia Carers Count  and the Advisory Board of Raising Films.

    I never consciously withdrew from TV writing, but fell out of circulation on the long-runners, and that year of 2009 also had major surgery that I’d been putting off for some time, due to mum’s condition. I kept up contact with the business through involvement with the Writers’ Guild, sitting on the TV Committee and Executive Council, and being Deputy Chair from 2012-14. It was a traumatic time, but arguably, with hindsight, it has given me pause for thought about the kind of work I really want to do. I’ve realised that autonomy and truthfulness of content are the drivers for me and have since been focusing on original work for stage, screen, and radio.

    Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Ming Ho”

Review: Citizens of Nowhere?, Southbank Centre

The fascinating site-specific and immersive Citizens of Nowhere? makes for an intriguing afternoon at the Southbank Centre

“Things are getting better. There’s Gemma Chan and…well, there’s Gemma Chan.”

There’s a delicious sort of pleasure that comes from being able to eavesdrop on a conversation on the table next to you, isn’t there. Or is it just me…? Fortunately it’s not, as that is the whole set-up of Ming Ho’s Citizens of Nowhere?, part of the China Changing Festival at the Southbank Centre. Sat at cafe tables in the foyer of Queen Elizabeth Hall, armed with headphones, we get to listen in on the British-Chinese Lo family on the table just over there.

Edinburgh-based Linda has come down to London to visit with two of her kids. Jun Chi is getting married and Jane’s making waves in the local Conservative party but she’s got some pretty big news of her own to break as well. And in the way of most families, their conversation gets waylaid by the resurfacing of old history as a way of exploring current tensions, overlaid by a wide range of intersecting contemporary issues about life in the UK right now. Continue reading “Review: Citizens of Nowhere?, Southbank Centre”

DVD Review: The Ruby in the Smoke

“I mean to have that ruby”

The Ruby from the Smoke is the first in a series of four books featuring adventuring lead character Sally Lockhart. Here a mysterious message received from her father just before he drowned in the South China Seas sets her on a dangerous journey which starts with a man dying in front of her very eyes at the mere mention of what is contained within. She is then drawn into a mystery involving the opium trade, the fabled Ruby of Agrapur and even secrets from her own family history as her life is under constant peril from the dastardly Mrs Holland.

This was one of those things that I pretty much knew I was going to love from the moment I heard about it, but it certainly does help that I do really like the actress that Billie Piper has become. There’s an inner strength to her as well as a richly warm quality that is highly endearing and ideally suited to this modern figure of a woman, challenging Victorian notions of womanhood as she strives to uncover the truth. And Pullman writes extremely well for his female characters, something carried over in Adrian Hodges’ screenplay, as Hayley Atwell’s Rosa makes a sterling ally for Sally and as the evil Mrs Holland, Julie Walters makes a convincing villain. Obviously casting against type, it is an astonishingly effective performance, exuding huge malevolence and full of spine-chilling touches – the false teeth in particular – it’s a vein of work she ought to pursue a little more. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Ruby in the Smoke”

Review: Takeaway, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“What makes an Eddie Woo”

Eddie Woo is stuck working in his dad’s takeaway, having failed his A-Levels yet again, but frequently escapes to his daydreaming world where he is the New (Chinese) Tom Jones. Back in the real world though, he is juggling two girlfriends, a best friend who might be drifting away from him and a full-time job though when a talent show seems to offer a potential way out, it leads to yet more confusion as Eddie is finally forced to decide what it is he really wants from life. Such is the set up for the Theatre Royal Stratford East’s new show Takeaway, music by Leon Ko and book and lyrics by Robert Lee, which makes the claim to be the first ever British-Chinese musical.

There is just so much going on in here that the overwhelming impression is that I suspect Lee and Ko might actually be certifiably insane. The manic way in which the show rockets around its different subject areas and formats is breathtaking and not always in a good way. Talent shows, racism, the pressure of working in family businesses, the Chinese immigrant experience and generation gap, frustrated youth dealing with the lack of opportunities, the questioning of sexuality and much more beside are all thrown into the melting pot alongside a structure which throws in songs in the most arbitrary of manners: as Eddie’s internal monologues, insane fantasy sequences, romantic ballads, storytelling songs, comedy numbers, Tom Jones pastiches. Everything is whirled together and so we ricochet from plot strand to plot strand with dizzying speed, resulting in a show that, however well-intentioned, ends up as something of a mess. Continue reading “Review: Takeaway, Theatre Royal Stratford East”