We Review Under The Umbrella At Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.
Under The Umbrella is a compelling new play by Amy Ng (Acceptance, Shangri-La) exploring tradition, trauma and triumph in the art of finding love and delving into the world of Chinese marriage markets. Set in Coventry and Guangzhou, Wei’s mother joins the hundreds of parents at the Marriage Market of Guangzhou attaching her daughter’s dating profile to an umbrella.
Produced in association with Yellow Earth Theatre & Tamasha our own theatre lover Lilith Holsey- Sheppard couldn’t wait to go and watch this brand-new show.
China is a country that’s always been very private and so when I read the show delved in to the unknown world of marriage markets, I knew I had to see it. Taking our seats in the B2 auditorium, I was struck by the minimalistic stage. A square raised stage filled the room that was covered in holes. The back drop was again a big square structure with a big round circle taken out of the centre and three large steps connecting the stage to the back wall.
The lights dim as the four female cast members take to the stage, dressed in black each with two white umbrellas. Opening with a contemporary dance, white umbrellas flying, it finishes with them being placed in a circle as they start to attach dating profiles to each one. Dong, Charlotte Chiew, enters with a yellow umbrella, Wei’s profile attached as she tries to find a suitor amongst the other umbrellas. Potential suitors parents scoffing at Wei being 26 as a determined Dong tries to promote the great qualities her daughter has, including her PHD.
Back in Coventry and the phone rings in the very early hours for Wei, Mei Mac, on the other end is Dong and her Grandmother, Minhee Yeo, encouraging her to come home for the first time in years for Chinese New Year. A dishevelled Wei, still wearing a pink wig has obviously adapted well to the western world and tries everything she can to avoid going back. Living with her flat mate Lucy, Laura Tipper, who also has a fractious relationship with her own mother, they are ready to celebrate Christmas. Singing karaoke and getting the turkey ready, going back to Gaungzhou was the last thing on her mind.
Wei is also struggling with her PHD and the only way to buy herself some time is to go home for Chinese New Year. Arriving home to her traditional and almost tyrannical Grandmother and passive mother, it’s not long before she finds out Dong has been at the marriage markets on order of her Grandmother. What takes place is a battle of traditions against free choice between East & Western cultures. Not to give too much of the story away Under The Umbrella touches on so many issue faced in China including the one child law and gender screened terminations.
There is so much that I thought was very clever in the production of Under the Umbrella. The use of such simple staging changes a location in a second as the holes are used for props, suddenly changing a blank stage to a lovely lychee orchard. The clever use of lighting that shines through all the holes changes the mood in a second. Add the contemporary Chinese music, you really do feel in the centre of the two worlds.
The cast are fantastic, each one brings something special to the show which, although touches on some very sensitive subjects, is also incredible funny.
For me, Under the Umbrella is undoubtedly one of the best shows I have seen at Belgrade Theatre.
Running till Saturday 16th February, to book tickets or for more information, visit http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/under-the-umbrella