What does it really mean to be British and Chinese in contemporary England? That’s the question posed by Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹, Jennifer Tang’s devised theatre piece which runs at Camden People’s Theatre from 22 January to 9 February. Time to book your tickets!
Tang’s personal story of being born to Cantonese parents but raised by a white British family runs at the north London venue as part of Chinese Arts Now, a new festival created to showcase the best new work by contemporary Chinese artists.
On a hot clammy muggy day in October
In a Chinese takeaway restaurant
A decision was made:
A woman was going to take another woman’s baby.
She thought she was getting a chow mein and instead she got a baby.
Six months later
From the top floor of a hospital
Wrapped in blankets and snuggled away
A woman called Janice and a man called Phil
Set in 1980s Gravesend, Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹 tells the story of Kim, a young Chinese girl who is fostered by a white British family. Juggling family loyalties, cultural contradictions and the widening gap between personal identity and social acceptance, this touching and theatrical show asks important questions about love, belonging and how to find your way in a world that doesn’t recognise you.
Tang conceived the idea for the play and worked with performers Bea Holland, Siu-See Hung, Danielle Phillips and Paula So Man Siu to devise the piece. Holland previously appeared in Not Now Bernard at the Unicorn Theatre and The School Run at the Canal Cafe, while Phillips boasts credits including Dark Winter for Hull Truck and Reared at Theatre 503. Siu’s credits include From Shore To Shore and The Flying Roast Goose. Hung reunites with Tang, who previously directed her in Mountains: The Dreams Of Lily Kwok. Her other credits include Chinglish at Park Theatre and Diaochan – The Rise oftThe Concubine, directed by Ross Ericson, whose productions of The Unknown Soldier and Gratiano run at the Playground Theatre from 22 to 27 January.
Director Tang has worked across new writing, devised work and opera, including extensive work with communities and young people. Her previous productions as a director include We Are Young for the Young Vic, Clytemnestra for Gate Theatre and For The Record for Theatre Royal Plymouth. Speaking about Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹, she said:
“In recent years there has been a flurry of theatre productions that explore Chinese stories. Nearly all of these stories have been set in China, or abroad, and have arguably done little to dispel the myth of Chinese people being far away, exoticised, and distinctly ‘other’. While any work featuring East Asian artists can only be welcomed, I’m really thrilled and excited for this opportunity to create a show that speaks specifically about the experience of the Chinese here in the UK, particularly the British Born generations. It feels incredibly important to be part of a flourishing movement that is seeking to give voice to our overlooked community, and which asks for British Chinese identity to be recognized alongside other minority voices. Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹 sets out to reclaim specifically the experience of the British Chinese. But this is not just a story for British Chinese audiences. This is also a story about Britishness, and what that means in these turbulent times, and it will resonate with anyone who has at times struggled to find their place in the world and wondered what it means to belong.”
Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹 runs from 22 January to 9 February at Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2PY, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.15pm. Tickets are priced £12. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
What is Chinese Arts Now?
This is the inaugural Chinese Arts Now festival, which is dedicated to British-Chinese performance and culture. It runs from 19 January to 2 February across venues includes Camden People’s Theatre, Artsadmin, BFI Southbank, Rich Mix, LSO St Luke’s and the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. It also includes an augmented reality tour of Chinatown.
The organisation behind the festival, Chinese Arts Now was founded in 2005 as a not-for-profit organisation with the aim of developing and commissioning excellent British Chinese performing and visual artists, and to create a bridge for collaborations with artists of Chinese and East Asian origin. They have previously collaborated with companies including Tamasha, Yellow Earth and Dance Umbrella.