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Review: untitled fck mss s**gon play at the Royal Exchange is ‘audacious, fearless and thought provoking’

A breathtaking, hilarious whirl eviscerating simplified and offensive Western portrayals of Eastern Culture, untitled fck mss s**gon, kicks off the Manchester International Festival with a bang.

untitled fck mss s**gon play

“untitled fck mss s**gon play,” written by Kimber Lee and directed by Roy Alexander Weise, is an audacious and thought-provoking production that fearlessly delves into the legacy of racist, imperialist, and misogynistic tropes perpetuated in Western portrayals of the East.

With a satirical edge and a bold disregard for conventions, this play circles through pastiche interpretations of works like Madama Butterfly, South Pacific, and MAS*H, revealing the recurring themes and problematic narratives that have shaped our understanding of Asian cultures.

Lee’s work is an unapologetic polemic that challenges long-held assumptions about Asian women and dismantles the conventions of naturalistic theatre.

It crackles with punk energy and engages in a fierce and brittle argument with itself.

Asian stereotypes

In its furious and funny examination of repeating Asian stereotypes, the play takes a sledgehammer to years of racist and imperialist portrayals, asserting the need for marginalised communities to control their narratives.

At the heart of the production is the story of a young woman named Kim, caught in a never-ending cycle of events that feel all too familiar.

She questions who is writing her story and embarks on a journey to break free from a hundred years of bloody narratives that always seem to end the same way.

Resistance against the colonial mindset

Kim becomes a symbol of resistance against the colonial mindset, as Lee’s play confronts the deeply ingrained prejudices and exploitative tendencies embedded in these narratives.

The play brilliantly weaves together a tapestry of references to various works, such as Madama Butterfly, South Pacific, MAS*H, The King and I, and The World of Suzie Wong.

Imperialist tropes

These well-known stories are stripped down to their imperialist tropes, exposing the pattern of one culture dominating another while claiming moral superiority.

The Asian peasant, portrayed as “dirt poor but very clean,” is seduced by a white soldier who later abandons her for a more socially acceptable Western wife.

The peasant’s tragic fate, often culminating in suicide, conveniently resolves any lingering guilt for the imperial power.

By boiling down these narratives to their core elements, Lee’s play reveals the insidious nature of colonialism and its enduring impact on societies.

It critiques not only the art but also the real-life consequences of a colonial worldview.

Conflicting viewpoints collide

The playwright does not shy away from examining the psychological effects of these narratives, presenting a multicultural dinner party where conflicting viewpoints collide.

Denial, assimilation, and angry resistance are all represented, sparking a volatile and necessary dialogue about the continuing influence of colonialism on contemporary society.

Under Weise’s skilful direction, the mood of the play seamlessly shifts between comedic and confrontational. Mei Mac, in the role of Kim, delivers a standout performance that is both funny and ferocious.

Mac successfully resists being stereotyped as a submissive Asian woman and confronts societal pressures beyond her control. The entire ensemble shines, bringing Lee’s biting humour and bolshie spirit to life on stage.

A superb production team

The production is witty, needling, and unapologetically challenging, inviting audiences to question their preconceptions and interrogate the narratives that shape our understanding of the world.

The creative team behind “untitled fck mss s**gon play” demonstrates their immense talent and dedication to creating an immersive and thought-provoking theatrical experience.

Khadija Raza’s design, Loren Elstein’s costume design, Joshua Pharo’s lighting design, and Giles Thomas’s sound design all contribute to the vibrant and evocative world on stage.

Ruth Chan’s composition adds another layer of emotional depth, while Shelley Maxwell’s movement direction and Haruka Kuroda’s fight and intimacy direction ensure a dynamic and engaging performance.

Challenging prejudices

“untitled fck mss s**gon play” is an explosive and incisive theatrical work that demands attention and challenges deeply ingrained prejudices.

Kimber Lee’s punky polemic circles through pastiches of well-known works, dissecting years of racist, imperialist, and misogynistic tropes.

With sharp humour and relentless energy, the play takes control of its narrative, refusing to accept the limited representations of Asian women and shining a spotlight on the damaging impact of colonialism.

It is a rallying cry for marginalised voices, inviting audiences to engage in a necessary dialogue about the power of storytelling and the need for diverse and authentic narratives on our stages.

The Manchester International Festival

As part of the Manchester International Festival, “untitled fck mss s**gon play” joins a lineup of diverse and groundbreaking performances that showcase the best of contemporary art and culture.

The festival’s commitment to showcasing works that challenge conventions and push artistic boundaries aligns perfectly with the intentions of Kimber Lee’s play.

By including this production, the festival reinforces its dedication to promoting thought-provoking and socially relevant works that tackle complex issues.

You can catch the play at the Royal Exchange Theatre by clicking here.

It’s on from 24 JUNE 2023 – 22 JULY 2023.

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