From Shore to Shore at Angel Restaurant ****
Liverpool is a city of 'come from aways' - a melting pot of cultures in which every family has its own tale of migration.
It's also home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe, so where better for On the Wire theatre company to bring this lovingly crafted piece of potent storytelling, centred around the migratory stories of the Chinese diaspora?
On the Wire creates theatrical experiences in unexpected places – which in the case of From Shore to Shore are a series of Chinese restaurants across the country where dinner and a show becomes a rewarding communal experience.
Writers Mary Cooper and MW Sun pour real-life memories, articulated by members of the UK’s Chinese community, in to three interwoven fictional stories of hardship, hope and family fealty.
In many ways, these are themes we can all identify with – the pressure of trying to please your parents; the conflicting attitudes of different generations; the fracturing of family ties; the urge to belong.
But here these recognisable feelings take on an extra dramatic resonance and poignancy by being set against a cultural and political landscape that feels very alien to the majority of its audience, and yet one which the story’s protagonists react to with quiet stoicism and practical acceptance.
Above: The cast of From Shore to Shore. Top: Luna Dai as Yi Di. Photos by Lee Baxter
Individual narrative strands – the community elder (Ozzie Yue) recalling the turmoil of his war-torn youth, the Yorkshire-born Chinese girl struggling with cultural expectations and identity, the high-achieving daughter forever trying to please her cold and exacting father – wind in and out, stealthily and sinuously shaping themselves in to one powerful connected story.
There’s great ensemble work from the seven-strong cast who swap seamlessly from English to Mandarin to Cantonese in the same breath, while the action unfolds against an atmospheric live soundscape, including the chiming clarity of a singing bowl which punctuates the changing scenes.