Friday, 16 May 2014

REVIEW: Yellow Face, The Shed theatre


THE exploration of how ethnic minorities are depicted and represented on stage is the subject of a brilliantly well observed play by David Henry Hwang.
Yellow Face was written in 2007 and in questioning what race really means, it draws on real life events and experiences of the Chinese American playwright.
These are interwoven with some less real to produce the piece which is now on at the National’s Shed theatre.
The main character is Hwang himself who penned the Tony-award winning hit musical M Butterfly and then became, somewhat unwittingly, the spokesman for the Asian American community.
It begins with David getting caught up in the true controversial casting of UK actor Jonathan Pryce taking the lead in a Broadway production of Miss Saigon in 1990.
David responds by writing a farce, Face Value, but instead of casting an Asian American actor of the calibre required for the lead role, he chooses Marcus G Dahlman, a man who has next to no Asian heritage at all.
To get around this he tries to pass Marcus off as having Siberian connections which Marcus embraces all too readily with unforseen consequences.
While all this is going on America is facing a rise in anti Chinese sentiment and government witch hunts and investigations of anyone with the vaguest of Asian connections.
They even investigate David’s elderly, fiercely pro-American but immigrant father.
The climax comes when David is interviewed by a journalist from the New York Times who tries her best to stitch him up only to be told she will feature as a character in his next play.
Funny and poignant, it is superbly acted by the seven strong cast and beautifully staged in the round on a raised platform under which Chinese lanterns are hung.

Yellow Face continues at the NT Shed until May 24. Tickets from £12. Call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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