It’s a weird thing to have a platform to write about something important when it’s not your voice.
This is what happened when I saw Golden Child this week, a play written by Tony Award-winning David Henry Hwang, and produced this time by True Heart, a playback theatre company who also focuses on giving a voice and a face to British-Chinese theatre makers. With all the press on the RSC’s recent casting controversy over their production of The Orphan of Zhao, (out of a cast of 17 Chinese characters only three of the actors cast were actually Asian) you can imagine the intrigue into the work of companies such as True Heart; companies who have taken a significant stand to showcase Chinese talent well before the subject was brought to light.
Golden Child tells the story of a Chinese family’s battle to adapt to the modern world, and their painful conflict between holding on to their heritage and fitting into a changing environment. The writing is naturalistic yet beautifully poetic, strong and at times very, very funny. This is a rare combination, especially for new writing pieces. As a result the story unfolds leaving us deep in thought but not so much that we are removed from empathising with the characters. There was also just the right amount of non-naturalism in this production to keep us alert: our ability as an audience to suspend belief was not underestimated nor was it violated.
…a wonderfully charming and believable performance both as mother and then as granddaughter…
The acting as well crafted with a seamless ensemble. Jacqueline Chan gave a wonderfully charming and believable performance both as mother and then as granddaughter. Siu Hun Li complemented her performance nicely with his curious grandson and conflicted husband, and although at times his accent slipped it was barely noticeable due to the audience’s already established involvement in the story. It’s notable that it wasn’t always easy to identify the difference between One and Two of the three wives (Tuyen Do and Yuna Shin), but regardless they great performances and lovely moments from both actresses, as well as a very moving performance from first wife (Lourdes Faberes). Sid Pheonix gave an amusing turn as the priest, challenged both by a severe language barrier and an inability to meet any villager on his arrival without sending them running for the hills.
I believe that the experience of seeing the show will be different for everyone, depending on what impact the subject matter has on you individually. For the outsider, or the casual observer, you may be left utterly fascinated and curious to know more, as well as proud to have been invited in to see this private world via such a wonderful piece of theatre. However, from sound to set, costumes to directing, and acting this production would have stood alone without any cultural significance. However having conversed with the cast and crew over the significance of this production (as was stated in my opening paragraph) it was just even more special to know how much it meant to all involved.