So The Print Room has just issued an apology solely for making an announcement, and not for their other actions. They have emphasised that their play, or as I now see it, their caricature showcase, is 'not a Chinese play and the characters are not Chinese', but the production 'references a setting in Ancient China and the characters' names are Chinese. These are literary allusions ... and never intended to be taken literally. The allusions are intended to signify “not here, not now, not in any actual real ‘where’ ” and the production, set, costumes and dialogue follow this cue of "no place".'
Instead of questioning motives and then getting annoyed, which rather jars with this festive season of peace and goodwill, why don't we all move on? As a UK theatregoer of Chinese descent, I would boycott the play as it currently is and encourage everyone who believes in the UK to do so, but if my suggestions here were to be implemented, who knows, everyone could be a winner!
1. The Setting:
Why can't the setting be changed to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Japan, or even better, Czarist Russia? With Czarist Russia, especially, there'd still be that Imperial connection (an Emperor by any other name is still an Emperor), while the caricatures could have harmless, pleasing Russian names like Bogov, Sodoff, Pissov (for the men), and Balalaika (for the woman).
(Actually, I've had a think. 'Balalaika' isn't authentically Russian enough. 'Komonova' would be better.)
2. The Cast:
Changing the setting to Czarist Russia would also solve the casting problem, given that the Print Room team originally couldn't envision a more diverse cast. As Czarist Russia was ethnically diverse (I seem to recall that Catherine the Great was from Central Asia), there is now ample opportunity to include four non-white actors of all genders and none along with the white actors, and have everyone work together.
3. The Themes
To address the theme of universality, everyone in the cast of eight, white and non-white, must be made to learn every line of the caricature showcase, and then every cast member must be given the chance to offer their interpretation of each caricature once. This would make the caricatures fresh and exciting every time with every viewing, and this will open minds to fresh casting possibilities. Meanwhile, if the cast forget their lines, they can always improvise, because after all, 'allusions are intended to signify “not here, not now, not
in any actual real ‘where’ ” and the production, set, costumes and
dialogue follow this cue of "no place".' This would make the caricatures absolutely exotic and something never seen before.
And in the spirit of true diversity, and to question what it is to be human, and in keeping with the Russian setting (Russia has shown it leads the way in diversity in this regard), Aleksandr and Sergey the Meerkats could be roped in, and comparethemarket.com could be a sponsor, and this would be a financial dream come true with spin-off games, toys, books...
What, it won't work? Really? Are the setting and names really that important? Is the cast really that important? Are you telling me that the cast must consist of real human beings? Is the dialogue crucial...? Can't the plot change? But why? Because it'd be a different story? But... but it was meant to be abstract, no? I'm confused...!!!!
Since the setting, names and everything about this caricature showcase is an
abstract, why did the current casting happen? Why was this caricature showcase marketed
the way it was? Why do the characters sound like caricatures? Why do they have those names that come straight from Gilbert and Sullivan...?
If you, my reader, can come up with any more possibilities to improve this situation, please do share them on Twitter under the hashtag #yellowface.