The play’s focal point is Kim, trapped in cartoonish pastiches of Butterfly, Miss Saigon, et al. The same tongue-in-cheek parody unfolds with the dice always loaded against her. She is an eternal victim destined to fall in love with a bulging bicepped American jock who leaves her, remarries a blonde American wife, and returns years later to adopt the child while Kim meets a tragic death. Think Groundhog Day by way of Roland Barthes.
Mei Mac and Tom Weston-Jones in untitled f*ck m*ss s*gon play. Photo: Richard Davenport (The Other Richard)
With a subversive charm that is difficult to resist, Roy Alexander Weise’s anarchic production shoots fireworks from the get-go. The Young Vic is in the round, with platforms swishing in and out for each setting granting the production a continuous forward propulsion. There is barely a second to catch your breath between self-consciously silly shamisen renditions of Kool and the Gang and bombastic performances led by Mei Mac, whose comic timing is pitched to perfection.
But the glaring issue lies not with the production but with the play itself. Kim is never more than a vessel for ideas rather than a living, breathing human and Kimber Lee’s script lets its politics take over at the cost of its humanity.
Undeniably interesting but cerebrally overworked at the expense of warmth, the drama, shoehorned in at the tail end, is window-dressing for what feels like a staged essay. Fascinating in all its post-modern boundary-shattering iconoclasm, but not engaging on an emotional level.
Mei Mac in untitled f*ck m*ss s*gon play. Photo: Richard Davenport (The Other Richard)
Kim finally finds herself in 2023 lounging around a chic Upper West Side flat. She must, somewhat predictably, break free of the existential shackles placed upon her. There is a swelling monologue about Asian representation and a portentous beam of light is projected from off stage as a way out.
It is easy to see why untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play won the inaugural Bruntwood Prize International Award in 2019. As one long passionate middle finger to the inheritance of orientalist artistic tropes from the past, it captures a zeitgeist in an age where hegemonic narratives are being challenged. History is no longer written by the victors.
Whether by mistake or design, the production was first staged in Manchester at the same time as a straight take on Miss Saigon was showing in Sheffield. It begs a question that goes unaddressed: what to actually do with Miss Saigon and other 'problematic' artworks. It’s clear what Lee thinks of them, but does that mean they ought to be consigned to the artistic dustbin and never staged again? That’s where the real debate is to be had.
|What||untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play, Young Vic Theatre review|
|Where||The Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
18 Sep 23 – 04 Nov 23, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|