Where Are You From? – Abbey Theatre (Peacock) – Review
by Frank L.
This was the final piece of the Young Curators Festival at the Peacock. It was previously shown as a work in progress at Smock Alley’s Scene and Heard Festival in 2019.
The title encompasses the essence of the work. Clarke-Ng is the daughter of a man who was brought up in the New Territories of Hong Kong and a mother who was originally from Killester. Clarke-Ng herself was brought up in Wicklow. For her father the essence of where you come from is determined by the routines, customs and rituals which you absorb in the early part of your life. Therefore, although he has lived in Ireland far longer than he ever lived in Hong Kong, he is clear that he comes from Hong Kong. Clarke-Ng is equally clear that she comes from Ireland and Wicklow in particular.
However, it is not as simple as that as Clarke-Ng’s appearance provokes questions in Caucasian Ireland. Those questions often highlight the questioner’s lack of knowledge about Hong Kong, China and the various other countries which abut onto the Pacific. Clarke-Ng investigates this lack of awareness as she seeks herself to understand the world of a small village in the Hong Kong New Territories from where her father comes.
There is a bath in the centre of the stage in which Clarke-Ng sits at the beginning. Behind her is a screen on which is projected sur-titles so that what her father says can be more easily understood. She moves from the bath and over the loud blare of a night club sound system she tries to answer the question “Where are you from?”. It is asked by a young man who appears not to have studied geography as a subject at any time during his school years. It makes for a funny conversation with the laugh at the expense of the questioner.
Clarke-Ng gives a contemplative performance interspersed with her occasional youthful need to burst out into frenetic dance. She has created a piece of theatre which gives voice to an increasingly relevant question for people born in Ireland of an indigenous and immigrant mix never mind those born solely of immigrants. She has articulated well the complexities of the answer to the question in relation to her own case. Let us hope it will encourage others of different racial mixes to articulate their stories. Ireland will be the better for these stories being told first hand. Clarke-Ng in this thought provoking and at times humorous piece has shown one way of doing it. Let us hope it will encourage many more.
Performers: Choy-Ping Clarke-Ng 吳彩萍
Performers: Chi-Wai Ng 吳子威
Writer: Choy-Ping Clarke-Ng 吳彩萍
Directors: Choy-Ping Clarke-Ng 吳彩萍 and Grace Morgan
Production and Stage Management: Sophie Coote
Lighting Design: Ferdy Emmet
Sound Design: Lara Gallagher
Set, Costume and Projection Design: Choy-Ping Clarke-Ng 吳彩萍
Set Assistant: Natasha Duffy
Publicity Photography: Isaac Harris