A hero’s journey, a quest for identity & a world in a Chinese mall in the trippy, visually striking, thoughtful No Foreigners


Derek Chan and April Leung. Miniature design by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, April Leung & Derek Chan. Media apparatus design by Remy Siu. Projection design by Milton Lim & Remy Siu. Photo by Daniel O’Shea.

Hong Kong Exile (Vancouver) and fu-GEN Theatre (Toronto) opened their co-production of No Foreigners, produced in association with Theatre Conspiracy (Vancouver) and presented in association with The Theatre Centre (Toronto), at The Theatre Centre last night. No Foreigners was co-created by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, Milton Lim, Remy Siu and David Yee; and features performers April Leung and Derek Chan.

Puzzled and troubled at being barred from a store by a mysterious old Chinese woman for being a “foreigner,” despite being Chinese, a young man ventures into the depths of a Chinese mall seeking his identity. While visiting his mother, he learns he is to inherit his grandfather’s estate, but must first discover the password. His dual purpose becomes a single quest, and he ventures deep into the mall where, with the help of an unexpected mentor, he completes a series of tasks and eventually arrives at a secret moth conservatory, where he may attempt to speak with his grandfather.

No Foreigners Production Photo 2
No Foreigners miniature close-up. Miniature design by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, April Leung & Derek Chan. Media apparatus design by Remy Siu. Projection and sound design by Milton Lim & Remy Siu. Photo by Daniel O’Shea.

This magical multimedia adventure in storytelling is achieved through the shadow play of miniature sets and figurines, manipulated and voiced by Leung and Chan, as well as projection, animation and sound. Exploring the concept of what it is to be Chinese, No Foreigners incorporates language, popular culture and ancient traditions within the framework of the classic hero’s journey. The result is a mind-bending, funny and moving ride featuring a large and diverse cast of shopping mall characters. As husband and wife co-owners of a failing electronics store, Leung and Chan bring particularly hilarious and poignant performances. And Leung is also a cheeky, cool and gifted mentor to Chan’s determined, serious and ambitious young hero as they navigate food court ninjas and a karaoke performance. Ethereal, meditative moments combine with dynamic visuals for a truly remarkable theatrical experience.

With shouts to the design and creative team: David Yee (text); Natalie Tin Yin Gan, April Leung and Derek Chan (miniature design); Remy Siu (media apparatus design); Milton Lim and Remy Siu (projection and sound design); and Derek Chan (translations).

No Foreigners continues in the Theatre Centre Incubator space until February 25. Tickets available by calling The Theatre Centre’s Box Office at 416-538-0988 or online; advance booking essential, as it’s an intimate space and a very short run.


Alternate realities, masks, mysteries & secrets in NIF Week One program

nif 2015Alumnae Theatre Company kicked off its 27th annual New Ideas Festival (NIF) – three weeks of short new plays – last night, with four engaging, intriguing and enjoyable plays about connections:

Inheritance (by Tabitha Keast, directed by Matthew Hines). Two sniping siblings preparing a surprise 25th wedding anniversary party for their parents get a surprise of their own as family secrets are revealed – the kind that rewrite family history. Nice work from the ensemble in balancing the comedy with the family drama in this piece: Nicole Belfer as the upbeat, spontaneous sister; Kenny Hayes as the uptight, control freak brother; Lavetta Griffin as their direct, assertive mother; and Kalman P. Nagy as their gentle, discrete father. Nothing brings out how people really feel than an unexpected and startling revelation.

The Indigo Forest (by Bridget Erin, who came in all the way from Louisiana to see the opening, directed by Sandra Banman). An artist (Sarah Naomi Campbell) who’s hired a young art student (Adam Malcolm) to paint the home she once shared with her soon to be ex-husband finds she has a lot in common with the young man – and fascination turns to a strange sense of déjà vu. Who is he? Lovely work from Campbell as the wry-witted, passionate and vulnerable Chris; and Malcolm as the boyishly sweet, charming and mysterious Nick. This play vibrates with a haunting beauty and the characters’ shared passion for art and music, the fourth wall appearing and disappearing as boundaries fade in and out.

Lost Connection (by Lindsay Finnie, directed by Zita Nyarady). A recycled cellphone number connects two texting strangers in an unexpected way. The two women each have ‘text doubles’: an actor representing her text messages. The text characters for Maggie and Ruby (performed with playful sass by Alina Kouvchinova and a suffer-no-fools assertiveness by Wendy Fox, respectively) carry most of the dialogue, sometimes engaging in cleverly choreographed physical theatre-based movement, while the two women sending the messages (Jada Rifkin, the emotionally fragile Maggie; and Shannon Junkin, the preoccupied and put-upon Ruby) speak volumes in their silence. A gradually unfolding two-hander, played with four actors, that shifts into something meaningful and moving.

Devices (by Meredith Taylor-Parry, directed by Ingryd Pleitez). This play is set in the near future, where voice-controlled devices are the norm for communication and smart home operation – and where direct eye contact with strangers is socially frowned upon, and as a result, people wear sunglasses at all times of the day. Anna (Shalyn McFaul) meets Joseph (John Marcucci) and begins to see the world differently, both outwardly and inwardly, much to the chagrin of Malcolm (Kevin Kashani), the man she lives with – and who is not who he appears to be. Full of intrigue and suspense – and the unsettling feeling that this is not too far off today’s world – Devices makes us question where the true connections lie. The play also touches on the class and socio-economic issues of the 1% versus the 99%. Great work from the cast: McFaul brings a nice sense of conflict and spontaneity to Anna, the hard-working ‘good daughter’ and rising corporate star; Kashani is perfectly attentive and charming as Malcolm, who has a little something you can’t quite put your finger on; and Marcucci’s Joseph is a nice combination of irreverent and earnest, with a contagious passion for life and propensity for breaking society’s rules.

NIF Week One is an engaging and entertaining collection of plays featuring alternate realities, masks, mysteries and secrets.

The Week One program continues in the Alumnae studio until March 15, with matinée performances on March 14 and 15 (please note the 2:30 curtain times) – and a talkback after the March 14 matinée.

Also included in Week One is a one-time only reading of Liz Best’s Surrender Dorothy, directed by Eric Benson – on March 14 at noon, with a talkback afterwards.

See here for more details on the Week One lineup; you can order tickets in advance online here – this is a very popular theatre festival, so advance bookings are recommended.
In the meantime, check out the trailer for NIF Week One: