Yellow Face

Park Theatre is Finsbury Park’s wonderful new fringe playhouse that’s only been open for two weeks. Housing two stages, the ninety-seater Park 90 where Yellow Face is staged, and its larger neighbour Park 200 are both airy and atmospheric spaces that show real potential to house all kinds of inventive productions.

The maker or breaker for any new theatre, particularly on the fringe circuit, is in its programme of plays. At first glance Yellow Face risks having too specific a subject matter that could potentially deny it broader appeal.

It’s essentially a comedy drama about the casting of white actors in Asian roles, both intentional and otherwise. But while it raises questions on the wider issues of racism both in the entertainment industry and out, the play is more a confessional from its writer David Henry Hwang and his own rather ironic mishaps.

Having led the protests in the early 1990s over the controversial casting of Jonathan Pryce in an Asian role of the Broadway production of Miss Saigon, by some cruel twist of fate the famous Asian-American playwright DHH, known for M Butterfly, mistakenly casts a white actor ­ Marcus G Dahlman (Ben Starr) ­ for an Asian role in his own play Face Value.

The bungling way in which DHH, performed in great likeness by Kevin Shen, tries to deny his mistakes by claiming that the actor is a Siberian Jew and the consequences of this deception performs to great comic effect.

Thanks to the abundance of humour helped by an energetic, punchy script, great direction by Alex Sims and some superb acting in which John Schwab, Gemma Chan, Davina Perera and David Yip perform dozens of different parts, ensure that the production steers clear of being lost to a wider audience.

For these reasons alone it’s well worth the trip.

-Will Stone