‘Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play’ to run at same time as ‘Miss Saigon’ revival in England

  • The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England, is set to present Kimber Lee’s drama “Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play,” which aims to address the representation of Asian women in the “Miss Saigon” musical.
  • New Earth Theatre said in a statement that it does not wish to associate its work with “a musical that perpetuates deeply held notions of Asian inferiority would impact their wellbeing.”
  • The play, which won the Bruntwood prize for playwriting in 2019, was “born of rage” and stemmed from “feeling invisible or misrepresented”, Lee said.
  • The New York-based playwright examined how “the presence of Asian American stories is only allowed a very narrow range in the cultural conversation.”
  • Lee’s play will run from June 24 to July 22, 2023, around the same time Sheffield Theatres will present the revival of “Miss Saigon.”

The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England, is set to present Kimber Lee’s drama “Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play,” which aims to address the controversial representation of Asian women in the “Miss Saigon” musical.

The news comes a day after New Earth Theatre, a touring theatre company of British East and South-east Asian (BESEA) artists, announced on Monday that it decided not to showcase its play “Worth” at Sheffield Crucible in June 2023 because of the theatre’s staging of “Miss Saigon,” reported The Guardian. “Miss Saigon” is often criticized for its orientalist lens, white savior hero and depiction of the Vietnam War and Vietnamese people.

The company said in a statement that its team does not wish to work alongside “a musical that perpetuates deeply held notions of Asian inferiority.”

“Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play,” which won under the international category of the Bruntwood prize for playwriting in 2019, was “born of rage” and stemmed from “feeling invisible or misrepresented,” Lee said, according to The Guardian.

The New York-based playwright examined how “the presence of Asian American stories is only allowed a very narrow range in the cultural conversation,” and her play deals with “going against another Asian stereotype which is that we’re all humorless and inscrutable.”

According to Lee, the play not only tackles the issues of “Miss Saigon,” but also looks into “this tradition of performance and its treatment of Asian characters and this particular trope of Asian women.”

Lee’s play will run from June 24 to July 22, 2023, around the same time Sheffield Theatres will present the revival of “Miss Saigon.” The Royal Exchange Theatre and Sheffield Theatres are about an hour’s drive away from each other.

“There is no denying that past versions of this story have provoked strong reactions and feelings,” Sheffield Theatres said in a statement. “We have approached this new production sensitive to this and believe this is a chance for us to engage in a fresh way with a majority east and south-east Asian company reframing the story.”

Beats, a nonprofit advocacy organization of BESEAs in the theater industry, responded:

“While some might rejoice in the show’s high drama and slick musical numbers, we can never shake off the disturbing fact that south-east and east Asian women are fetishized and hyper-sexualized, harassed and even physically attacked with the lingering trope of pliant availability, while south-east and east Asian men are emasculated and erased. These are damaging cliches which a work like Miss Saigon perpetuates, while also erasing the real experience of war and violence suffered by millions of Vietnamese women, men and children.”

The role of Kim in “Miss Saigon” was originated by Lea Salonga, who was credited as the first Asian woman to win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical (1991) for her part.

 

Featured Image via LSFP

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