I wanted to go to sleep. Truly. I have an almost 6 month old, and sleep is much appreciated by all who dwell in …my dwelling. (Well, that’s where we dwell, so that would be about right, wouldn’t it)
But thanks to the Socialest of Social Networks I was sent links. LINKS! Before I went to bed! Now I can’t sleep! And what were they of, may you ask? Rightfully so. They were about the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Orphan of Zhao.
Now we all know what happened in China oh so many years..well, I mean we all know EXCEPT the Royal Shakespeare Company. They don’t think Chinese people happened in China at all. (Did you see that baby in the trailer?) As far as the Royal Shakespeare Company is concerned, what happened in China is that the Royal Shakespeare Company did not want to get confused with D’oyly Cart,
so rather than do a shuffling and scraping Mikado and take down Japan, they were going to have a cultural smackdown with China and erase the Chinese people.
(Oh, notice that the set designer has put Asian faces on his little stick figures in the design? And how Doran said he could place it anywhere, Nazi Germany or such, which would have made sense with his Casting, but he chose to keep it in China….just…just…well, just cuz)
It’s like watching Hollywood adapt a film based on a Manga comic book!
(“You are the last of your kind” Oh…the last white boy, oh dear…has anyone checked Cleveland? Or Harrow? I’m pretty sure there are a few left.)
But let us not dwell on Gregory Doran, as he is veddy veddy British-y busy, what with his Ring Cycle of Repertory, and lollygagging to China to swipe their masterpieces – let us move on to the reviews.
Historically, the British Critics have provided scathing and yet, ultimately quite accurate reviews of their theater. They never fail to tell us if someone has discovered a penultimate performance within themselves or whether a James Bond franchise is an appropriate place for a Dame, or anything vaguely like a Dame.
But this is what tilted The Fairy Princess’s tiara today, and it is a doozy – none of the reviews have given more than a glancing mention to the fact that there are no Asians in Asia!
Are they confused? Do they not know it’s set in China? When they hear Emperor, are they looking for the Holy Roman one? Are they turning in their seats, paging through their programs looking for Hapsburgs and getting confused?
No, I don’t think so, as every review first off mentions that this play, this Orphan, is “The Hamlet of China”. Perhaps it is calling it “The Hamlet of China” that is confusing. Maybe they are stopping, mentally, with the word “Hamlet’ and imagining Danes of all kinds trying to wash out damned spots? When really the only damned things they have washed out of this play are East Asian Actors with lead roles.
(There is one Maid and 2 Dogs that are played by East Asian Actors, but the Maid is murdered and the dogs are really puppets. I can’t imagine they are verbose, the dogs. Unless they are pulling Timmy from the well. Like Lassie.
Who was played by an actual dog. And yes, they had wells in Feudal China, because…WAIT FOR IT… just like every other human on the planet – Chinese people require water to live. Ah, the similarities are astounding!)
The Critics are siding with The Royal Shakespeare Company!
The East Asians who were not even asked to audition and who then rose up in Interweb protest on several valid points have been dismissed summarily as ‘sour grape actors’! One Critic even went so far as to tell us that ‘the best actors got the job‘.
How do we know that?
We know some very fine Actors were cast, it is after all, the RSC, but what we do NOT know is how many East Asian Actors were called to audition for a play set in Feudal China. Artistic Director Doran says that he called ‘lots and lots’. What a very precise number, did he go to public school?
In an informal survey, out of the approximately 100 or so Actors who were of East Asian descent that they could have called, the RSC called eight.
I have more fingers and toes than that. As do you, hopefully. Go check. Go check now. Ok, look at your hands,
now take away your thumbs and any hope of evolution….
Yes, that many Actors of East Asian Heritage were called in for a play that boasts 17 parts and takes place in China.
Please place your thumbs back on your hands.
The Guardian said “while I would have liked to see more Asian actors on stage, this should not diminish the power of an extraordinary theatrical event.”
Quite right. It IS Extraordinary that there were not more East Asian Actors on the stage. It is, indeed, a powerful statement that the major critics are perfectly fine viewing “The Chinese Hamlet” without Chinese people.
I wonder what ELSE the Critics would be perfectly ok with?
Stealing tuppence from children? Firing a nanny for sliding down banisters? Forbidding Mrs. Banks to attend Suffragette meetings? Asking Cook to mind the children? Doesn’t that all lead to anarchy? A ghastly mess?
Here is the point, and the Fairy Princess will make it ONE MORE TIME – so that the Critics and Interweb Racial Identity Stalkers Who Post Crazy Crap will get it –
You cannot just decide to co-opt Asian stories, keeping the costumes and character names, making the set and props ‘authentic’ and then conveniently leave out the faces that go along WITH those other things.
And remember, the World is watching – how do I know that? I read The Huffington Post.
THE HUFFINGTON POST here in the States said of The Orphan of Zhao “In a play designed for Chinese characters, the bias seems to reach absurd levels of discrimination.” Thank you Ariana Huffington – OPA!
Aren’t racists tired? I mean, here in the States they are all crying over Election results and threatening to depart our shores to go to England or Australia. (As an Aussie, I find that offensive since Oz has Universal Health Care, a National Voter System, a Female Prime Minister etc.)
It has GOT to be just EXHAUSTING being so afraid of other people all the time, even while you insist you must tell their stories, use their identifiable costumes and structures to build the world of the play…. and it’s just not cool, Folks.
Five spanks of the wand to the British Critics, save two, because when they could speak up and make a difference and raise awareness, they chose to kow tow (yeah, I said it like that) to the “Establishment’ and try to push the East Asian Actors under an Oriental Rug.
To the Critics at The Guardian, BBC, The Express & Star, and everyone EXCEPT The London Evening Standard who said “The fuss about casting was justified‘…. and The Stage –You can all KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE
(And Congrats to the British East Asian Actors who look to be getting their Forum to talk about all this in the open – you fought the good fight, and you must stiff upper lip it and carry on!)