I’ve been to a lot of immersive theatre, but an up-market Chinese restaurant during service hours is a first. I wasn’t too sure what I was expecting when I had booked Citizens of Nowhere but it sounded nothing like I had experienced before and that was already an achievement in itself!
The creators asked all guests to bring headphones with them for use during the show. Again, very intriguing. The act takes place at Duddell’s; a restaurant that had been on my list for a few years now but I had never found the time to go. The interior is just stunning as it’s part of St Thomas Church, the upstairs of which now operates as the Old Operating theatre.
Upon arrival guests of citizens of nowhere are welcomed and seated upstairs. Each table is equipped with a radio set that you plug your headphones into and set it to a collective channel. Through the headphones we would be able to hear the conversation taking place all from the comfort of our very own tables.
Promptly, the actors walked through the busy restaurant and it all began to unfold around a table in the restaurant. As luck would have it, I was seated right beside this table so I could see the flawless acting of Pik Sen Lim, Siu Hun Li & Jennifer Lim. Although truthfully, the experience would’ve been just as great if I was sat afar. I loved that you could eavesdrop on a conversation that was most likely had in many British migrant households. It made the whole thing very intimate.
As the story unfolds we find out that Linda (Pik Sen Lim) came from Hong Kong with her parents many years ago and has been living in Edinburgh for 40 years, where her now estranged husband continues to run their restaurant. She has four grown-up children, but two live in America. She’s down in London to have dinner with the other two, son Jun and daughter Jane. He’s an actor, about to marry his Dutch girlfriend. She is a businesswoman hoping to soon become a Tory MP, and unbeknown to her mother and brother until tonight, to marry her English partner Matthew. Linda’s big news is her decision to return to Hong Kong, before Jun’s wedding which she doesn’t want to attend because of his step-mother.
I loved that the waiters continue to go about their business and serve the audience appetisers and drinks. I ordered the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ mocktail which was delicious! Depending on your ticket, you can buy one that is higher priced and you’re served food too.
All in all, the whole thing is very authentic and it raises some fantastic (and very valid!) questions that second generation British Asians have all had. Playwright Ming Ho does an incredible job creating something this deep in just 45 minutes.
The exploration of “belonging” through all three characters really resonated with me. Linda feels she belongs where she was born more than where she’s lived most of her life. Jane is a fully fledged Brit. Jun sees himself as a Scot of Chinese heritage, embracing both.
If you get a chance to go and watch this show then I would whole heartedly recommend it.