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HomeTheatreREVIEW: Scenes from a Yellow Peril (Auckland Theatre Firm)

REVIEW: Scenes from a Yellow Peril (Auckland Theatre Firm)


Picture: Andi Crown

Funneling Rage into Artwork

Written by award-winning Chinese language Kiwi playwright and poet Nathan Joe and directed by Jane Yonge with dramaturgy by Ahi Karunaharan, Scenes from a Yellow Peril is a present concerning the on a regular basis racism East Asian New Zealanders expertise in Aotearoa. Half efficiency poetry, half political commentary, half story telling, half confessional, Scenes from a Yellow Peril confronts these uncomfortable matters by a knock-out efficiency. We’re taken on this journey by a collection of efficiency vignettes with titles starting from ‘Love in a Time of Colonisation’ to ‘My Ancestors Crossed Oceans to Be Right here and All I Need to Present for It’s Bubble Tea’. 

The play begins with an introduction by the solid members on stage––Nathan Joe, Uhyoung Choi, Amanda Grace Leo, Louise Jiang, Angela Zhang; and musicians Kenji Iwamitsu-Holdaway, Rhohil Kishore and Daniel Mitsuru McKenzie––telling us just a little bit about themselves. Their costumes, designed by Steven Junil Park, include layers of muted-coloured draped cloths and have each a timeless and culture-specific high quality to them. The host on opening evening, Jane Yonge, proceeds to have a Q&A session with the 5 solid members, which units the confessional nature of the scenes to come back.

A strong group efficiency poem is delivered with rapid-fire precision, informing us ‘it is a play about rage…a struggle cry’. Joe’s mastery of language and rhythm is on full show, aided by the performers’ sharp supply. The dynamic interaction between the performers themselves and the stay band improve the affect of the phrases and tales being instructed. 

Probably the most scary scenes within the present is ‘They Kill Chinamen, Don’t They?’, recounting the tales of Joe Kum Yung, Jae Hyeon Kim and Mei Fan, victims of racially motivated hate crimes in New Zealand. The macabre tone is conveyed in its supply and enhanced by music, lighting and the set design (Rachel Marlow and Brad Gledhill). The vignette ‘You Typically Masturbate’ supplies a extra light-hearted second by satire. ‘Decolonise the Physique. We’re all Meatsacks’, contains commentary on notions of magnificence and fetishization: ‘I’ve taped my eyelids, and folded them over. I’ve dyed my hair, again and again, the roots now poisoned…I’ve been made an object with out wanting it, I’ve made myself an object after I felt undesirable’.

Someplace in the direction of the top of the present, it struck me how momentous this event is: a present that confronts racism and spins all its conflicting and messy emotions on its head. It’s courageous. It’s daring. The performers, every with their very own distinctive qualities and personalities, are relatable and personable. There was honesty and openness. They took centre-stage. And as a Chinese language-New Zealander, I might relate. Joe ends the present by apologising, a collection of ‘I’m sorry…’ statements (which isn’t untypical in Chinese language tradition). Joe says ‘I’m sorry for making an enormous deal about racism’, but there is a crucial message embedded: ‘that anger can gas you’, and I say YES to that.

Scenes from a Yellow Peril is co-produced by Auckland Theatre, SumsSquare&Co and Oriental Maidens and performs ASB Waterfront Theatre 22 June to three July 2022.

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