About Yellow Earth

Our Story

Yellow Earth Theatre was formed in 1995 by five British East and Southeast Asian* (BESEA) actors; Kwong Loke, Kumiko Mendl, Veronica Needa, David KS Tse and Tom Wu.

The company sought to develop work that would widen the choice and type of roles being offered to BESEA actors at that time and to create work that brought together our physical skills and western drama school training to present plays that explored our own cultural heritage.

Over its 25 year history Yellow Earth has worked with many of the best BESEA actors, writers, directors and designers to create a wide range of award winning work from new writing to bold adaptations of classics; from family friendly shows to participatory and site responsive work.  Yellow Earth also provides professional development opportunities for BESEA artists while inspiring  the next generation to get involved in the arts.

David KS Tse was the founding Artistic Director 1995 – 2008 followed by Johnathan Man and Philippe Cherbonnier 2009-2010.

Kumiko Mendl became Artistic Director in 2011 and set out to engage audiences in participatory and immersive work in new spaces with an ambition to produce fresh, vibrant work that reflects the BESEA experience.

In the past three years the company has:

  • Given 296 performances in 42 venues across the country to over 17,000 people
  • Toured children’s shows to over 30 venues across the UK and been seen by over 10,000 children and their families
  • Attracted over 1,200 people and lots of praise and positive four and five star reviews for our site-specific show The Last Days of Limehouse
  • Supported & developed 24 BESEA emerging writers
  • Given professional opportunities to 79 BESEA performers & directors
  • Provided free drama school training to over 45 young BESEA’s in Yellow Earth Academy, our annual Summer School.
  • Delivered 284 workshops to over 9,000 children in schools and Museums.
  • Presented 180 performances on the Cutty Sark and in the National Maritime Museum to over 3,500 people in partnership with the museums.

The company is named after the seminal Chinese film, Yellow Earth directed by Chen Kaige, with cinematography by Zhang Yimou. The film was part of the 5th generation of “new wave” mainland Chinese filmmakers to come out of the 80’s and its combination of poetic lyricism and dark drama inspired many artists and audiences around the world.

*We use the term British East and Southeast Asian to mean people of the following descent:
Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and their diasporas.
These people remain severely underrepresented in the arts in the UK. 

Our Mission

Since our beginnings in 1995 our work continues to be informed by the rich, diverse perspectives and experiences of a rapidly growing and far reaching BESEA community in the UK.

We identify and invest in BESEA emerging and established actors, writers and directors and nurture and champion those artists, supporting them to make groundbreaking work that will increase the visibility and profile of BESEA theatre in this country and beyond.

Through our productions, playreadings and extensive outreach work we engage and develop new audiences, and look to inspire the next generation of BESEA artists.

Who We are

Our Board

  • Wai Mun Yoon (Chair)
  • Kai Chuan
  • Katie Elston
  • Maninder Gill
  • Amy Lin
  • Nick Marchand
  • Richard Shannon
  • Kithmini Wimalasakera

Our Partners