Windson Liong: Chinglish
By Caro Moses | Published on Wednesday 22 March 2017
David Henry Hwang’s ‘Chinglish’ was first performed in the US in 2011, but it’s not been produced over here… until now. The play gets its European premiere at The Park Theatre this week, following the highly successful run there in 2013 of another of his works, ‘Yellow Face’.
To find out more about the play, and this staging of it, I spoke to one of the actors appearing in the show, Windson Liong.
CM: Can you start with the story of the play? What happens in it?
WL: In a nutshell, ‘Chinglish’ is a play about being lost in translation. It follows the journey of an American businessman, Daniel Cavanaugh, as he seeks to develop business connections and relationships in China. During his time in China, he discovers that there are many other things that can be lost in translation beyond mere words and texts – it’s sometimes hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking.
CM: Does it explore specific themes?
WL: There is of course the theme of acceptance and communication across culture, nationality and allegiance. Language is an effective tool, but not necessarily the only way to develop connection, as the characters find out in the play.
CM: It’s a while since the play premiered, back in 2011 in the US – given its contemporary themes, is it still as relevant as it was then?
WL: Yes, absolutely. In fact, given the recent major events that unfolded in US and UK, a play such as this that celebrates diversity and connection regardless of differences is definitely relevant now, more so than ever.
CM: What is your own role in the play?
WL: I play two different roles in the play. Bing (a translator who is not very good in his job) and Xu Geming (a judge who is very good in his job, and wants to be the very best).
CM: Can you also tell us a bit about the rest of the cast?
WL: Gosh, I am lucky to be working with such a talented, sociable and fun loving cast! Everyone is so giving towards one another too. I am immensely grateful to be sharing the stage with them. Even after seeing each other for a whole day during rehearsal, everyone on the team will still want to hang out together after work for a drink or two, just to unwind and hang out. It is a joy to work with a great team and an even bigger treat to be working with people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company in and outside of work.
CM: How did the casting process work? Were only bilingual actors considered?
WL: I don’t really know how to answer this for sure, since I wasn’t part of the creative team who decides on the casting. All I did was show up for the audition, wet and soggy from being caught in the rain without an umbrella, and did my scenes in both English and Mandarin. Judging from the fact that most of the cast speak 2 to 5 languages, I would guess that language capability was a pretty big consideration for the creative team when they were casting.
CM: For anyone that isn’t aware of the work of playwright David Henry Hwang, can you tell us a bit about him? Has he had any involvement with the production?
WL: I have never met David in person. Not yet anyway. Hence, it is a bit hard for me to comment about him at the moment. However, I have been a fan of his work ever since ‘M. Butterfly’. I have tremendous respect for his intelligence, masterful writing and for being such a champion for diversity and a role model within the industry.
He’s not been directly involved with the production but he wrote us a new draft for this European Premiere at the Park Theatre, so in a way, this European Premiere is also kind of the World Premiere of this new draft of the show!
CM: What’s coming up next for you, after this?
WL: Hopefully, a nice holiday somewhere warm and sunny to begin with! Haha! Also, I have recently completed writing three short films which have garnered some interest from a couple of film-makers, so I will probably work towards getting them produced once I have a little more time to myself to concentrate on those projects.
‘Chinglish’ is on at The Park Theatre from 22 Mar-22 Apr, see this page here for more info.