Gold Mountain

Presented by Les Deux Mondes
Unity Theatre
Tuesday 10th April 2012

Reviewed by Jennifer Keegan

The play opens to 2 large screens and the shadows of two men. Through the creative use of light, projections and music we are told the story of a man, originally from China but now living in Liverpool. As he takes a trip down memory lane and the story of his life, his son explains and corrects his father’s memories as the man gets confused or muddled up.

The idea for the play came from David Yip, whose father the story is loosely based upon, an idea that spent more than 20 years fermenting in his mind until he felt it could be told after his father’s death. Yip wanted to find a voice for the British Chinese community, a way to tell their story in his own way. Through his father’s memories he found his story, sitting down all those years ago to commit his father’s words to tape, like our lead character, his father was confused by memories and found difficulty in distinguishing between memory and history. Stories ventured off onto tangents, offset with talk of politics and the news.

With the visuals of the play, whilst imaginative and creative, I felt the story got brushed aside as visuals tried to depict the background history of the story. At times very tender moments between a father and his son reminiscing were overshadowed by harsh projections and music. In particular the part about his wife and the mother of his children, what was a beautiful story with an emotional and powerful ending was somewhat spoiled by the use of props, having an image of her projected onto twirling umbrellas was pretty, but distracting from the story of a very strong and radical woman who broke social boundaries and pushed limits.

Eugene Salleh played the scouse son of a Chinese man and a Scouse woman; it would seem this character is based on David Yip himself. Salleh played it with all the emotion of a conflicted son, angered by his father’s mistakes, but compassionate in his father’s old age. His sarcasm at hearing his father’s stories again and again gave his character a trait many could relate to.

David Yip led the two-man production in what was essentially an exploration of his own father’s life. This personal connection made Yip’s performance personal and emotional. His character was searching for his "gold mountain" throughout the play; a way to measure his success in the eyes of the culture he had left in China. He claimed that the Gold Mountain had been the gift of longevity, the gift of a long life blessed with many children. Perhaps Yip has found his own gold mountain in a beautifully engineered tribute to his father’s memory.

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