Taking Flight is an annual festival organised by Red Dragonfly Productions, a company that aims to bring stories from the (Far) East to the British stage. Although the festival is designed to hear from people from different Asian ethnic minorities, they are not required to write an ‘issue-based piece’; in other words, a story about being an ethnic minority. In the span of 90 minutes, three new short plays from emerging writers are presented, with mixed results.
The first one, Clarissa, orchestrates a meeting between Jasmine, of Indian heritage, and her very British and very posh mother-in-law, Clarissa. Jasmine is planning her wedding day with George, but his mother seems to have her doubts about this ‘temple wedding’. Short and sweet, the play centres around cultural differences and similarities, and how in the end, mothers from all cultures seem to relive their youth through their daughters’ weddings. There is humour and recognition in the generational and cultural clashes between the two women, but Lekha Desai Morrison’s script doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination, and spells things out a little too much. In combination with the slightly overacting actors, the subtlety is somewhat lost.
Michael Phong-Le’s one-man-show Khon is the star piece of the night, as both his script and acting are truly captivating. His story about growing up in a Vietnamese family in Britain, torn between two cultures, seems so real, one can’t help but wonder if it’s autobiographical. Phong-Le effortlessly combines comedy with touching moments, and manages to create a compelling story within the space of half an hour. This is a sophisticated play, cleverly constructed and skilfully performed.
Taylor Swift’s Dog by Samuel Daram presents a parody on the current-day publishing industry, in which everyone wants to find the new JK Rowling, but literary agents don’t read books anymore. While they are looking for celebrities or white-sounding authors who feel familiar, young British Muslima Yasmina is working on a grand fantasy sci-fi novel. A good concept, the play could do with some editing to become more compelling; some scenes are overly long, and the bedroom monologues aimed at no one in particular are on the verge of being sappy. There is a lot of overacting going on, and the absurd ending is a bit hard to swallow. It definitely makes a point, but then again, that point was quite obvious from the beginning.
It’s interesting to see that while the aim of Taking Flight Festival is not necessarily to produce pieces about belonging to an ethnic minority, all three plays do focus on this theme to an extent. It is the only common denominator in an otherwise very varied night.
Taking Flight Festival will perform at the The Rotunda Theatre in Buxton between 11-13 July
Photo: Red Dragonfly Productions