Who is Fu Manchu?
Sinister Chinaman...criminal genius...racist myth...
Challenging racist stereotypes of Yellow Peril, 5 East Asian actors “white up” to play the traditional colonials in this hilarious murder mystery in the East End. Battling through clouds of opium, spiffing chaps Dr Petrie and Inspector Nayland Smith must do anything to stop the dastardly plans of evil criminal mastermind Dr Fu Manchu; but will their colonial angst allow them to do away with the villainous evil genius and save merry old England? And as their blundering leads them to ever more absurd conclusions, we ask, who is the real Fu Manchu?
Featuring an entirely Chinese & East Asian cast this hilarious and savagely satirical comedy pokes fun at the fear and exclusion of all things Chinese and “Eastern” and asks why East Asians are still perennial foreigners in the Western world. For many years now, Caucasian actors have portrayed ludicrously stereotypical East Asian characters. Now East Asians get to portray Caucasian characters (as well as ludicrously stereotypical East Asian ones). In an English period drama.
100 years ago this year the first novel featuring Sax Rohmer's lurid and fantastical racist creation, the evil Dr. Fu Manchu, was published. A century on we re-examine the skewed perceptions that have arisen around this pervasive myth.
We believe this is a unique and groundbreaking theatrical project which aims to place the most marginalised and under represented minority ethnic group in mainstream British media centre stage.
We have received Arts Council funding for the project, but we still need your help as the Arts Council is unable to fund the project in its entirety. We have already received enormous in-kind support from our partners Ovalhouse Theatre who are providing us with a performance space, rehearsal room and admin/marketing support. We are also being helped in kind by Asian Performing Arts Forum, S.O.A.S. & University Of Westminster who have agreed to sponsor and organise discussion events with leading academics around the topics raised in the play. The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) has also generously lent us financial support.
Now we need YOUR help with two crucial areas of our production-
Film We are using video inserts throughout the performance, firstly to create an art installation type atmosphere around the themes of the play that the audience will walk into. Throughout the evening the video will be used to set the scene and bridge the action of the play with short interludes around the topics of sinophobia, historical context (the opium wars etc.) and recent stereotyping (the reaction around Chinese swimmer Yi Shiwen's gold medal displays at London 2013) as well famous instances of "yellowface" (where a Caucasian performer plays an East Asian) portrayal down the years. We would aim for this video content to be as high quality as possible, both in terms of production and presentation where we are looking to incorporate imaginative use of video mapping (projection technology used to turn objects, often irregularly shaped, into a display surface for video projection).
Costumes We intend to create a "period drama" on stage. The type that, in the shape of Downton Abbey and the like, is so popular on our TV screens at present. In fact period drama may be referred to as a staple of the UK entertainment industry which actors of a certain class and background can regularly appear in, But ours will be one in which actors of East Asian descent (whose presence in period drama would, if at all, only be tokenistic) will feature as protagonists. In order to do this we require the highest possible production values and much of this will be evident in the costumes the characters wear which will range from English Edwardian suits to elegant "chinoiserie". Alongside this there are several make up effects specifically with regard to the character of Fu Manchu him/herself who will be a fantastical comic strip creation from the lurid imagination of a thousand racist tomes.
Risks and challenges
Theatre in Britain very much favours the people who are fortunate enough to find themselves in the centre of the mainstream. It is undeniable and no secret that the vast majority of these people are of a certain class and background. UK theatre IS changing and becoming more inclusive. But only very slowly.
Mainstream theatre is blessed with higher budgets, better publicity, better facilities and, perhaps most crucially, time.
To produce any theatrical production from outside this small centre ground carries significant (but certainly not insurmountable) risks in terms of achieving an acceptable level of quality, getting enough people to hear about it and most crudely of all in selling tickets.
We feel strongly we are tackling these risks by having an expert team in place, having excellent production partners and utilising a myriad of networks of people interested in East Asian subject matter and the portrayal of East Asians on stage to publicise the project. We are highly confident we can pull off an exceptional production whose success we hope can help trigger further engagement with theatre and opportunities to be creative from a minority ethnic group too long presumed (wrongly we feel) to have little or no interest in theatre.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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