Music Theatre Wales has become the subject of controversy for the all-white casting of its touring production of “The Golden Dragon.”
Kumiko Mendl, artistic director of Yellow Earth Theatre, has decried their production as being “another frankly disappointing and incomprehensible case of yellowface with the same tired old excuses given for not casting East Asians in roles that are ‘not realistic’.”
“The Golden Dragon” is based on a play by Roland Schimmelpfennig, with a cast of five actors who play multiple roles of varying age, gender, and nationality. The four roles at the heart of the issue are those of “Chinese mother,” “Chinese aunt,” “Old Asian,” and “An Asian.”
Many have expressed their views about Music Theatre Wales’ decision on Twitter, playwright Afshan D’souza-Lodhi tweeting, “My favorite part is when the writer even specifies the race of the characters [sic] but the director/producer has chosen to ignore it.” D’souza-Lodhi continues in another tweet, “I wish theatres like this would just hold up their hands and admit to their racism. Least that way we can deal with it.”
In response to the backlash they have received, Music Theatre Wales has issued a statement on their Facebook page, which reads, “The Golden Dragon is a story about anyone who, through no fault of their own, find themselves dislocated in a strange country, without official status. It addresses the crucial issue of modern slavery. The setting is a pan-Asian restaurant and the singers play a variety of roles, genders and nationalities. Two air hostesses are played by burly men; a cricket is played by a tenor, an ant by a mezzo and a small boy by a grown woman. The original play, and the opera on which it is based, is post-Brechtian storytelling: the cast narrate the story and introduce the multiple characters they are about to play. Quite deliberately, there is no realism.”
After being staged on October 3, 2017, at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Music Theatre Wales is set to take their production of “The Golden Dragon” to the cities of Basingstoke, Bangor, Aldeburgh, and London.