On Rememberance Sunday, various events and services will take place to commemorate the lives lost in both WWI and WWII. The day is crucial in taking a step back, and taking in the gravitas of those who have sacrificed their lives for the rights of future generations. We’re taught about key events that led up to both conflicts and we also hear of the victorious. What we often don’t hear about are the various soldiers and labour workers who aided in the conflict from a multitude of backgrounds. Daniel York’s Forgotten tackles this, a narrative solely focussed on the 140,000 Chinese Labour Corp who contributed in Great Britain and the Allies’ victory a century ago.
Emma Bailey’s brilliant marshey set design transports all to Northern China, Shandong Province. York’s language, poetic, as the cast paint imagery with their speeches – you can’t help but appreciate the craftmanship. Director Kim Pearce beautifully incorporates conventions of Chinese opera, the cast utilising a wooden clapper to contribute to the show’s sound element to aid in cast members moving from one part of the stage to the next and choreographed segments. Another convention is the manner in which cast members stand on stage, really considering their stance and presence and also presenting speeches as if partially spoken, partially sung – their tones in voice ascending and descending. Chinese Opera would have been enjoyed by many in the early 1900s and York captures a nation, although low on prospects, high on their love of the arts so this fusion of an archaic art form is lovely to watch.
Forgotten depicts a world of characters pre WWII, all seeking brighter prospects and a better quality of life. This automatically offers scope for all to transition; depicting their move from China and their assimilation to new customs, as well as having to get through the day to day surrounded by war, however this exploration of assimilation and character development can be looked at further – these characters having the potential of truly being memorable.
York’s Forgotten is important, it serves as an educative resourse as well as a brave piece of fusion theatre, marrying the archaic form of Chinese Opera with classical western drama. Stories like these are crucial, it’s incredibly important to showcase the multiple facets of world events such as these to broaden our knowledge. A recommened watch!
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Forgotten is currently showing until Saturday 17th November at the Arcola Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…