PTE'S LEAP SERIES
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Exile & fu-Gen
A Hong Kong Exile & fuGEN Theatre production
Shopping malls become a portal into surreal worlds that carry the nuanced stories of loss and resilience from the Chinese diaspora.
No Foreigners is a multimedia performance that meditates on North American Chinese shopping malls as spaces of cultural creation and clash. Multiple storylines begin in a mall and quickly diverge—catapulting us across cities, between Cantonese and English, in and out of the afterlife, through past, present, and future.
Weaving together text, miniatures, digital backdrops and live cameras, No Foreigners examines our changing relationships to these social spaces and the histories, characters, experiences, and ephemera that keep inviting us back.
A collaboration between ground-breaking Vancouver interdisciplinary super group Hong Kong Exile and Governor General’s award-winning playwright David Yee of fu-GEN Theatre.
“...an interdisciplinary innovative wonder … a nuanced, layered and exceedingly clever look at the diasporic experience.” – Globe & Mail
“...sleek, futuristic and oddly soothing” – NOW Magazine
“...bursting at the seams with interesting ideas and cool ways of presenting them” – Georgia Straight
David Yee, a Governor General’s Award-winning playwright of Chinese-Scottish descent and artistic director of Toronto’s fu-GEN Theatre, had a surreal experience in a Chinese shopping mall in BC, when he and members of the collective Hong Kong Exile were researching background for a new collaborative project.
They spotted a store with luxury handbags in the window, and a sign that said “Members Only". Yee decided to broach the entrance by pretending to be a rich businessman.
"I rang the bell and a woman answered. I told her I had just moved to Vancouver after getting a job in finance and I wanted to buy a bag for my girlfriend and I wanted to become a member," Yee says in an interview with Rabble.ca. "She said, 'Sorry, no foreigners,' and closed the door!
"The play starts exactly like that but our guy stays in the mall for three years and learns to be Chinese," Yee explains. "He goes to a DVD store and the girl there says, 'I will train you to be Chinese' and gives him Chinese dramas to watch and then all the way to karaoke videos. He also watches Bruce Lee movies and others, like Jet Li. (He l)earns kung fu, and there's even a fight in the food court."
At the end, the main character goes back to the Members Only door and goes through a series of tests to prove he is Chinese.
No Foreigners is a unique and innovative theatre experience. It doesn’t follow a traditional narrative – the stories and experiences of other characters are explored while the main character goes through his journey. Half of the dialogue is in Cantonese and translated into English onto screens onstage. And those screens play an integral role in the storytelling.
Rather than actors performing on a set, almost all of the story is told by the actors performing live as voices only. The magic of this production is that the visual aspects are provided by a series of miniatures populated by tiny mannequins, projected onto a series of screens for the audience through multiple cameras.
“We looked at aspects of Chinese culture and how they could be applied in our miniature apparatus with digital design and backdrop. We start off with what seems quite a straight-up mall and then move into abstraction. From there, things become a great deal more about exploring the experiences and emotions of these spaces,” explained Milton Lim, the Hong KongExile project director, in an interview with Stuart Derdeyn, Vancouver Sun.