In January 2017 New Earth Theatre (formerly Yellow Earth) launched a two year Professional Writers’ Programme for writers of East/Southeast Asian* descent.
Four early career writers were selected to take part in this intensive new scheme with the aim of developing four new plays for the company to produce. They were Kyo Choi, Joanne Lau, Amy Ng and Julie Tsang.
The two years culminated with staged readings of the plays written on the programme as part of TyphoonWEST at Soho Theatre in March 2019. They included:
Worth by Joanne Lau
Hours before their mother’s funeral, the Yeung siblings gather in the family home for the first time in years, only to discover their inheritance isn’t what they’d expected. With only £44 cash to her name and the house due to be repossessed, where has all Mum’s money gone? Tensions escalate as they race to find it, uncovering ugly truths, and shocking family secrets along the way.
Inspired by true events, Worth is a darkly comic family drama. Straddling two cultures, Worth explores immigration, abuse and sacrifice; asking the question – what are you really worth?
Fix by Julie Tsang
When Kevin responds to a call out to repair Li Na’s washing machine, little does he know what is in store for him. In doing a good deed for her, Kevin finds himself inexplicably drawn to this strange woman and her house in the woods.
Dark and unsettling, Fix is a modern fairy tale which goes to the very heart of gender politics, asking if we can ever really mend what is already broken.
The Apology by Kyo Choi
How should a nation apologise for the crimes of its past?
Seoul, 1995. Yuna is about to uncover a shameful family secret while Priyanka, the first U.N.-appointed investigator into violence against women probes the harrowing circumstances of wartime “comfort women.”
Thatcher in China by Amy Ng
Margaret Thatcher goes to war with China for Hong Kong fresh from her triumph in the Falklands. She arrives in Beijing, Winston Churchill in tow, to fight on the beaches herself if necessary. Chinese Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping has problems of his own. Chairman Mao, though embalmed and entombed, refuses to lie down. What’s more, the Paramount Leader has been constipated for months, losing Hong Kong would simply be the last straw. Mixing fact and fantasy, Amy Ng’s Thatcher In China explores what happens when dreams of empire refuse to die.
The Apology and Thatcher in China had further development with the support of the National Theatre.
The Professional Writers Programme is for writers of drama of East/Southeast Asian* descent who have a new idea for theatre. This programme supports the development of their ideas and craft by providing support from industry experts and will be led by a programme leader and dramaturg.
Programme leader and dramaturg for the first Professional Writers Programme was Caroline Jester.
Caroline Jester was Dramaturg and Literary Manager at Birmingham Repertory Theatre for a number of years and is a Fellow of The Institute of Creative and Critical Writing (BCU) and a Master on the MA in Dramatic Writing, Central Saint Martins. Publications include ‘Playwriting Across the Curriculum’ (Routledge), ‘Europa’ (Methuen), ‘Playwrights on their Craft UK/US’ (Methuen Drama, Bloomsbury 2017). She has worked with writers at all stages of their careers and as Dramaturg on numerous productions in the UK and abroad. She has developed playwriting programmes internationally including Singapore, US, Denmark, Poland, Croatia, Italy and Germany.
*East/Southeast Asia includes the following countries: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and their Diasporas.
This programme is supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England and Soho Theatre