The old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” will be put to the test in spectacular fashion in Anchuli Felicia King’s White Pearl – a fast-paced, millennial comedy coming to Sydney Theatre Company in July and touring to Brisbane, Parramatta and Canberra.
Described by Time Out as a “blisteringly funny satire”, White Pearl documents the fallout at Singaporean-based cosmetics start-up Clear day after a racist ad for the company’s skin-whitening cream ‘White Pearl’ goes viral.
In White Pearl, which had a sold-out Australian premiere as a co-production with The National Theatre of Parramatta in 2019 and acclaimed productions in London and Washington D.C, King deftly unravels toxic corporate culture, the complexity of Pan-Asian relations and racism.
“White Pearl explores a grocery list of themes – the beauty industry, the multiplicity of “Asian” identities, intra-cultural racism, millennial corporate culture, global discourse and the internet, and shame as a cultural commodity,” King, who was STC’s 2019 Patrick White Playwrights Fellow, says.
At its core, White Pearl is really about communication:
the ways we use language to gain or cede power. I’m so excited to get to share this play with Australian audiences again in 2021, in a historical moment where it feels more timely than ever.
The show puts six young, Asian women at its centre – played in this production by Deborah An, Cheryl Ho, Mayu Iwasaki, Nicole Milinkovic, Vaishnavi Surya prakash and Lin Yin – joined by Matthew Pearce who rounds out the ensemble as a manipulative French ex-boyfriend.
The production is directed by Priscilla Jackman Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story), who said:
she was swept away by the power and provocation of King’s unique voice and her mastery of language on her first reading of White Pearl.
I had never read a play like it – the razor sharp idiomatic specificity, the six striking and distinctive female voices, the sophistication and slickness of her spellbinding tempo rhythms and the depth of her subversive comedy, that seems to entice and decimate simultaneously.
White Pearl is a fierce text, about the leaking of a racist ad that goes viral. But more importantly, for us, it is a play about power and language. White Pearl interrogates the irrefutable complexities of PC culture, challenging the privileges of language and identity while offering profound provocations into our human inter-relationships. It invites us into a political conversation around power, perspective, cultural currency and consumerism – ultimately asking us to question what unites us in our humanity and what tears us apart.
Anchuli Felicia King is a playwright, screenwriter and multidisciplinary artist of Thai-Australian descent. She was the 2019 STC Patrick White Playwrights Fellow, a position offered annually to an established playwright whose work has been produced professionally in Australia.
As a playwright, King is interested in linguistic hybrids, digital cultures and issues of globalization. Her plays have been produced by the Royal Court Theatre (London), Studio Theatre (Washington D.C.), American Shakespeare Center (Staunton), Melbourne Theatre Company (Melbourne), Sydney Theatre Company, National Theatre of Parramatta and Belvoir Theatre (Sydney).
As a multidisciplinary artist, King has worked with a wide range of companies and institutions, including Punchdrunk, PlayCo, 3LD Arts & Technology Center, Roundabout Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, 59E59, Ars Nova, the Obie Awards, The Builders Association, Ensemble Studio Theater, NYTW, American Shakespeare Company and Red Bull Theater. She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theater’s Youngblood Group and Roundabout Theater’s Space Jam Program.
Venue: Queensland Theatre, Brisbane
Date: 17 June – 10 July
Venue: Riverside Theatre, Parramatta
Date: 9 – 11 Sep
Venue: Theatre Centre, Canberra
Date: 15 – 18 Sep
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