She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

It has been a full two months since I left the day job to pursue the dream once again.

Why not. Might as well. She says.

Over the last few weeks, I reflected a lot to see which direction to take. I have consulted mentors and talked with many friends. I noted that with my female peers a pattern in our conversations was appearing: stress levels, anxiety and the pressure we put on ourselves. Our society seems to have certain values and on top of that we struggle with our own goals.

We are women of a certain age, children of the 2008 recession, unexpectedly lesser progressed in our careers despite our upbringing and educational expectations.
We are women on a cross-road, unable to see the consequences that our choices may bring: motherhood and ambition, will it be compatible? Money making or art following? What if we miss the boat? Which boat are we trying to board in the first place? How to pay the rent? Are we allowed to lean on people – does that diminish our drilled-in declaration of independence? What if we cannot do it on our own?
To quote the great Maya Rudolph in the film Away We Go: “Burt, are we fuck-ups?”

“We are infantilised.”someone said today and I liked the phrase. What does it mean to be an adult? Financial independence, home ownership, parenthood? What we have learned we should have/be/want as an adult, does not line up with reality. Perhaps that is why we don’t give ourselves the credit of being adults and we are trapped in uncertain limbo.

Tonight I watched “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” on Netflix about the Women’s Lib movement. It was enlightening. I was blown away to realise how radical the changes were that made on issues we now too often take for granted. The movement wasn’t perfect, mistakes were made, yet its journey has changed many lives and it is still ongoing.Screen-Shot-2014-12-05-at-10.48.18-AM-e1417805381734

If anything, it inspired me to be fearless: I saw women marching with children on their backs for jobs, for equal pay, for birth control, for day care. I heard testimonies about women performing illegal abortions on other women who were desperate to not become mothers.

Images of women disrupting men in meetings about female health care issues, men who laughed at the idea of Women’s Lib, women who agreed that a women’s place was in the home. Notions that are alien to me and the ones I associate with.

My fear subsided. I am an adult. My choices will be mine. The path I take my own. Thank goodness for the freedom and the opportunity to keep on pursuing that dream.


Money to mouth, time to step up

Monday, let’s start the new week by putting money where ones mouth is…

put your money where your mouth is
› to show by your actions and not just your words that you support or believe in something


Last week, I had the pleasure to attend two Open Forum discussions on inclusion in theatre: the first one was the D&D by Improbable on the inclusion of race and diversity and the second discussion was held by Tamasha, after their scratch night to address the gender-imbalance on stage: and dealt with the question how to create more permanent change in the theatre to include women.

Dear Reader, I can feel half of you switching off here: please don’t. I promise you this won’t be a political feminist rant. In fact, this is exactly what this blog is about, that feeling of “Yeah, yeah I know but do we have to make such a song and dance about it? Do we have to talk about it, can’t we just do it?” Last week, I met people who would answer/scream: “No, we can’t because they won’t let us!”  We being defined here by the minority discussed and They by the powers-that-be.

I am still not sure where I stand on this: I have only relatively recently joined the theatre forces and so I am not convinced yet that my current lack of published plays is an oppression issue –  I would like to think that I just need more time to hone the craft. Also, I had a very happy childhood, thank you very much mum and dad, and I don’t feel the passion/anger that comes from feeling wronged.

However, I am also a woman of ethnic minority trying to craft in Western theatre and I cannot deny that I do not see a lot of us working in ‘the industry’. This is just a cold, hard fact. One can argue that the minorities are just not available but here is another fact: I am here and though not many, others are with me. Even if not all of us have had the experiences that let us fight with the conviction, volume and the vigour as some can; when asked, we have to – at the very least – silence the thrice-crowing cockerel, and step up.

papergang_logo_100pxWFor that reason (and this is the point of this whole essay – thanks for bearing with me), when I was asked by Banana Writers to contribute a piece about our company Papergang Theatre, a new writing platform for British East Asians, I couldn’t say no. It is very daunting to share this with you, as I feel that there are more eloquent voices out there and for whom I have a lot of admiration. Yet if I am to scared to do it, how can I even dare to suggest others have a valid voice that deserves to be heard?

So if you are interested, please read the article “Writers wake up!”

Hidden heartaches

As the world focusses on the incredible story of the three women who were freed in Ohio after ten years, there is another little story of heartache going on back home. In the Netherlands two little boys are missing in Zeist, their parents are divorced and the brothers were spending the weekend with their father. The father was found near a wood after having committed suicide and the boys had disappeared.

Disco jesusA friend of mine shared the mother’s agony felt through her status update on Facebook: “to keep an eye out for her two little fellas who have been missing since this morning.”  After shortly stopping the search last night, police has had enough tips to continue later today.

Having just visited a new-born niece I cannot, refuse to imagine the pain. Literally witnessing a new generation of my family come to life, makes me realise that life will go on, even when I am no longer here. Not having any children of my own yet, I see the future in my nieces and my nephew. Not even my own, they are my hope.

I am not even able to write down my fears out of silly superstition but I feel for the mother who is waiting for her sons. It might just be one story, which doesn’t even make the global news. It is one of many in the world and nothing to do with me at all but if we stop caring for people’s crises, hope is truly lost.

Reflection on Jerusalem – the play

I’ve just come back from Jerusalem. The play. Not the city. It has in the words of my  very cool sister “positively blown me away.” [ insert  bad taste joke about being negatively blown away + city, anyway moving on…]

Of course, we knew that Jez Butterworth’s script was going to amazing and Mark Rylance’s performance completely awe-inspiring. . I think it scooped every award in town here and on Broadway and everything can be said about it, is already said, so this is just a personal reflection as I feel the need to digest this with my fingertips.

My brain is still processing the issues brought up in this play. It is a very English play dealing with very English issues but on a level also resonates with me, a small town foreigner who wanted to leave and see the world. It’s understanding the quirkiness of small towns, where we all know eachother. The security and/or the’ stifling-ness’ of it all.  Still, my family were outsiders: ‘imported’, not from small town stock. Even though I understood ‘the rules’ in time, I did not feel the pressure to obey them (thank god) and often I still felt like an onlooker, an observer of small town politics that were not engrained into my DNA.

Small towns have funny ways, generation-spanning memories, hidden secrets and agendas. Rooster Byron is the local drug supplier but also the person kids run to and hang out with. He is entertaining and a drunk he is a fantasist, a boaster, (borderline) insane, and yet he has a child and a woman who seemingly cares about him. All his different sides make him morally complicated.  Is he wrong or right, is he both? He sure doesn’t deserve to be treated the way he does, or does he?  Are the people of the town to busy trying to clear him out so they don’t have to look to their own faults? Or is he a pest and is the town better off without him? If we didn’t know Rooster was as charming and charismatic as Mark Rylance  makes him and we just read about his ways in the paper – would we condemn him? Probably.

This Rooster and the way the town reacts to him is recognisable though. In my home town, in the small town I first landed on English soil and in the big city I’ve met people with facets of Rooster and I find them hugely fascinating. Similarly, I find their entourage fascinating. I enjoy being their company but realise I’m reluctant to fully join in: it’s too complicated. Like in the Apollo theatre today, I feel myself more comfortable remaining an onlooker, an observer of ways that are not engrained in my DNA.


Tonight I watched the musical Backbeat. It’s really more a play with The Beatles music telling the story of the early Beatles days: Mamma Mia it is not. If you are reading this in the hope to find a review you may as well stop here. Sorry.

As I was watching the stage and Andrew Knott deliver his one liners as John Lennon I suddenly remembered why I was once infatuated with the man. (The man being John, not Andrew.) It was not a crush perse: if anything before the hormones kicked in and the boybands came around ( I’ve had this blog for sooo long I will stop apologising for my dire taste in music – you should know this by now) my huge crush was Elvis. As In  Presley. That’s right: the pretty boy with the magic voice and a weakness for glittery jumpsuits… and you wonder why I still have a weakness for pretty boys leaning towards the camp site side.

If Elvis was The Pretty I crushed on, John was The Wit.  I loved his words, his playing with language, his semi-nonsical/ semi-meaningful philosophising, his humour, his anger, his arrogance. He was who I wanted to be because as any teenager I was angry, arrogant and at the same time so insecure.

I connected to this free-spirit/singer-songwriter turned new age tongue-in- cheek philosopher. The latter would shape my appreciation of art: I still find it hard to like any sort of creative person if they take themselves too seriously. So what, if all my teenage- self  was only capable of thinking thoughts and writing pieces that were one foot in utopia-nirvana, one foot in 20th Century materialism: John had mixed up ideas, invented words and played with them and then laughed at his own ideas. I started liking connecting the theories of ancient and modern philosophers to my own experience of life. ( Super-geek! Did A-level philosophy.)

I started appreciating the power of thought shaped by the power of word thanks to John Lennon. I don’t care if he was a difficult personality or made the wrong decisions or hurt people unnecessarily. This is where the years have thankfully caught up: I no longer want to be John but partly thanks to his writing, I laid the foundations to create me.

One Man Two Guvnors

I was kicking the blues yesterday and what better remedy than seeing One Man Two Guv’nors at the National Theatre. My really cool sister got us tickets on the third row in the stalls – great places, but thank god not the first row with the amount of audience participation that was involved…

The brilliance starts with the 1960s band ( think very early Beatles, when they still wore the silly uniforms)  that plays a few songs as the people coming into to the auditorium: it is worth it to come in a bit early.

One Man Two Guvnors is written by Richard Bean and based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. The story is now set in England 1963, James Corden stars ( and I mean that in the shining meaning of the word) as Francis Henshall, a hard-up and hungry musician who takes a job for a small criminal Rosco Crabbe.

Rosco is in Brighton to claim his fiancee the dim Pauline. It’s to be a marriage of convenience – Pauline’s dad Charlie owes Rosco’s family money and with Pauline and £6000 this would all be settled.

The play however, opens with Pauline and wanna-be actor Alan’s engagement party as Rosco is supposed to be killed a week before by his twin-sister Rachel’s boyfriend Stanley Stubbs.  Shock and confusion when Rosco (and Francis) join the party.

Soon a slap-stick comedy of confused identity commences, and to make things worse Francis accidentally gets employed by Stanley ( yes- the murderer and the boyfriend) too. He now has two guvnors to serve and keep happy. Oh and Rosco turns out to be Rachel in drag, who is waiting for her boyfriend Stanley -geddit?

James shows off his skills with his portrayal of Francis. He’s quick-witted in improvisation when bantering with the audience and his physical ability is admirable. He owns the slap-stick scenes – a particular high light when hungry Francis has to serve lunch simultaneously to his two masters in two different rooms. Add  a bumbling waiter and an unsuspecting audience-member to the mix and it turns into perfectly choreographed and hilarious chaos.

The second half is much calmer than the first, but there are still gags aplenty. Francis develops a crush and all the characters need to discover the truth about each other. Throughout the performance, scene changes are accompanied by songs of the band and all the characters have a chance to shine in a transition number: be it singing , showing off their musical skills or even their bodies….

We literally cried with laughter all night: the situations are incredibly silly and entertaining. It is the complete package and delivers with a beautiful set, in words, music and action. One Man Two Guvnors is one perfect piece of entertaining theatre.