Yellow Earth Theatre has revealed more highlights of its new work to mark its 25th anniversary in 2020.
The acclaimed company, which is dedicated to developing and staging work by British East Asian theatre makers, has developed two world premieres and a partnership with the Japan-UK Season of Culture.
With Arcola Theatre in London, it will present a new play The Apology by Kyo Choi from 18 November to 19 December. It will be directed by Ria Parry, co-director of The North Wall arts centre in Oxford.
Set in Seoul in 1991, it explores the horror of the “comfort women” forced into sex work by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War and the subsequent political cover-up. It follows three women whose lives intertwine as they campaign for the truth against those who would rather it remain forgotten.
Kyo Choi turned to creative writing after beginning her career as Far East correspondent for Reuters. Her previous playwriting credits include Empowered at the Arcola Theatre and she has also written a novel, The Love Hotel.
Kumiko Mendl, co-founder and artistic director of Yellow Earth, is working with performance artist Kazuko Hohki on a new project called Tsunagu/Connect as part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2020.
Launched this month at The Museum of London, it is an 18-month project that will culminate in a live immersive performance in June 2021, guided and compered by Kazuko Hohki, with a virtual reality installation and exhibition. It aims to go beyond the stereotypes of the Japanese woman as a submissive, stay-at-home, model wife and mother with a mission to humanise this often misunderstood and hidden community.
With the help of volunteer interviewers, the pair will gather oral histories of Japanese women living in the UK since 1945 to document these brave and pioneering women who risked family shame and security to travel halfway across the globe to settle in a country where they barely knew anyone and were not always welcome.
The 25th-anniversary activities are already underway at The Pleasance theatre in London with the world premiere of Fix by Scottish Chinese playwright Julie Tsang in association with Unbroken Theatre. It follows a washing machine repairman who finds himself inexplicably drawn to an old woman and her house in the woods. At first it seems like a simple fix but as a storm starts to close in, he is forced to confront the ghosts from his past.
After opening this week, it runs until 1 February, with Mikey Anthony-Howe and Tina Chiang. It is directed by Jen Tan and designed by Rachel Wingate, with lightning by Ali Hunter and sound by Richard Bell.
In 2020, Yellow Earth will continue its commitment to professional development with the start of its second Professional Writers Programme in May which will culminate in four new plays from four British East Asian playwrights.
The company’s acting summer school, Yellow Earth Academy, which provides fully funded classes in voice, movement, stage combat and acting for camera in London and Birmingham, will expand to include a new writing course launching in Manchester in partnership with the city’s Royal Exchange Theatre, Home, Contact, The Lowry, Stun and Manchester International Festival.
Mendl said: “I’m really proud that Yellow Earth is still alive and very much kicking after 25 years. I came into post as artistic director in 2011 as the company's funding was entirely cut but I was determined to uphold and maintain our crucial mission of celebrating and developing British East Asian artists.
“So, it makes me doubly proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, with the company now a National Portfolio Organisation [funded by Arts Council England] and with a slate of exciting productions and programmes to launch our anniversary year. I sincerely hope the company can continue to grow and flourish over the coming years despite uncertain times, continuing to create opportunities for our artists and audiences across the country.”