David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face at the new Park Theatre, just thirty seconds from Finsbury Park Station, is the perfect way to mark the opening of this rather funky venue. What’s more, the racial issues dealt with in Yellow Face are particularly topical given the recent UK headlines, inadvertently providing a timely response to the more general question of individual difference and tolerance.
fast-paced dialogue, scene changes, multiroling and snap lighting are all used to great effect by director Alex Sim
In Yellow Face, the playwright paints himself as the central character DHH who, in a bid to promote racial fairness and suitability in showbusiness casting, is the front man for protests against the casting of Caucasian actors in Asian/Eurasian roles. A little later down the line, however, whilst casting his own play Face Value, DHH mistakenly casts a Caucasian actor Marcus G. Dahlman in the central, Asian role, and tangles himself in a web of lies in a rather hilarious bid to justify his phenomenal error.
The subject matter of the play, which spans racial judgements, prejudice, discrimination, and the witch hunts of Chinese American bankers in the US only a decade ago, is rather heavy and at times a little preachy, yet is delivered in a humourous fashion. Set in-the-round, fast-paced dialogue, scene changes, multiroling and snap lighting are all used to great effect by director Alex Sim to keep the action moving along. Whilst this can feel a little exhausting, the actors in this ensemble are adept at presenting a range of characters that both entertain and perplex.
And this truly is an ensemble piece. Whilst Kevin Shen as DHH and Ben Starr as Marcus Ghee have the only unchanging characters, the other actors provide much of the comedy through their quick and perceptive role changes. David Yip and John Schwab, for example, have some of the best lines in the show, and the versatility of the actors supports the central premise of the play – that race is, to many, only skin deep.
*** (3 stars)
Runs until 16th June