|Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2014-03-06 04:30Z by Steven|
P. P. Wong
Daniel York is a successful scriptwriter, director and actor who is passionate about championing equal rights for creative East Asians.
Born of mixed Chinese and English parentage, the talented British writer was selected as part of the Royal Court’s Unheard Voices initiative for emerging East Asian writers. As a result of this, he was invited on to the Royal Court Studio writers group. His short play Song Of Four Seasons (四季歌) featured recently in Tamasha Theatre’s Music & Migration Scratch Night and his other full length play Fake Chinaman In Rehab was given a rehearsed reading by 3rd Kulture Kids in New York City.
Theatre work in London includes Mu-lan’s award winning production of Porcelain at the Royal Court and Forinbras opposite Alan Rickman’s Hamlet at the Riverside Studios. He has won the prestigious Singaporean Life! Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Pangdemonium’s production of Dealer’s Choice and Freud’s Last Session.
Daniel is currently starring with Katie Leung (Harry Potter) in the play The World of Extreme Happiness.
He is also challenging racist stereotypes of Chinese people through his hilarious play The Fu Manchu Complex.
In an exclusive interview with BW Daniel took time out of his busy schedule to share his wisdom about scriptwriting and what it really takes to get a play to the stage…
…You have worked in the British arts industry for over fifteen years. Would you like to share your experiences as an East Asian artist?
I could actually write a book on this subject (maybe I should!).
When I first left drama school I was immensely lucky as there was a theatre company called Mu-lan who put on gritty, edgy work that completely challenged stereotypes and was absolutely prepared to risk being controversial (in a good way). I was in plays like Porcelain (about a gay Chinese man who murders his boyfriend in a Bethnal Green toilet) which transferred and sold out at the Royal Court, Take Away (about a Chinese take away family in Hainault, Essex facing the winds of change) and, later on, Sun Is Shining (about a dysfunctional relationship between a mixed-race City trader and an alcoholic artist) which transferred off-Broadway New York.
Despite (or perhaps because of) this, Mu-lan lost its funding and there was literally no high-quality theatre work with challenging roles for East Asian actors. Without that you’re left with the mainstream and the mainstream industry in the UK has a real problem with East Asians.
They don’t know how to write for them and they often don’t know how to cast them. The only roles on TV are ridiculously stereotypical but even worse nearly always ridiculously bland. Plus it’s difficult to land those roles if you’re a mixed race male. If you can’t do TV it’s hard to do theatre. I’ve found a bit of joy in classical theatre but even now, with the CV I’ve got, I generally won’t be considered for Shakespeare or whatever. One theatre director who wanted to cast me in the lead in a play was met with the argument “but he’s Chinese!” from the theatre boss.
Generally with all acting you have to be able to portray a cliché successfully before you can move on. The most successful theatre actor of this generation is arguably Simon Russell Beale. I can remember seeing him early in his career play three camp, portly fops in Restoration comedies at Stratford. Literally the same role three times. But he was so good at it he became successful and then was able to break out.
But if all you can get seen for are take-away owners and waiters and you don’t look Chinese enough you’ve had it…
Read the entire interview here.