Archives for category: Identity

It’s 2017!
It is at this time of the year many people reflect on the events of the previous year, whilst also looking towards to the future.

As a female, as a British East Asian what does 2017 hold in store? Well, for one thing, a new job that was totally unexpected, but most very welcome. I’m now in rehearsals at The RSC for Snow In Midsummer. What a joy this is and I realise I am so incredibly lucky to be included in this company which is comprised of all British East Asian actors!

But with everything that is going on across the globe and the shift in, not just national, but international politics. Where do I stand?  Where do I place myself in a new Britain that is now seemingly blindly shuffling its way towards, well towards what, we don’t quite know yet, do we? America a country that I have always loved, will this country now allow me to enter freely?
Central Europe is in the grip of its own self, doubt, grappling with the ideal, but having to face some of the grim realities, that free unfettered movement can enable other unwanted movement and actions.

And Britain, 
“…this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

Shakespeare Richard II, Act 2

But the UK has shown itself to be less than a paradise and not as blessed, a refuge, as perhaps was once thought. Brexit has scratched the country’s surface and our collective mindset. What it has uncovered is the dark, unsavory and toxic ideals of the extremism. The right-wing have sentiments, it appears have never really left us. 
Britain is not alone in this “discovery.” 

I feel fearful. Not of being dragged from my bed in the dead of night, but I am fearful that the spread of this below the line extreme right consciousness will inveigle itself once more into our institutions and national structures. I hope that I am just being paranoid and overly anxious. I am not a politician or an academic. I’m an actor, a writer, filmmaker and at times when needs be, a bit mouthy about issues that I am passionate about. 
As a person of colour, as a disenfranchised, culturally, dislocated and isolated person, I am finding it more and more difficult to see how I fit into Britain.
The social and cultural progressions that have been made since the late 50s early 60s when I first landed in this country, as Hong Kong Chinese foundling, have been truly remarkable. The diversity and variety that can be seen, heard and experienced in most major cities and towns across the land, is the jewel in Britain’s crown.

 So why do I still feel excluded from British society?
Quite simply because I seldom see myself represented in my own culture – British culture.
As a professional artist, it is rare that I even get the chance to be considered to represent my own ethnicity, let alone see the Britain that I grew up in, recreated on TV, film or in the theatre.

 In April 2013, I presented on the unrealistic artistic mirrors that I was faced with in the media as I grew up during the 60s. It was part of IN CONVERSATION – A Snapshot of Chinese Cinema Today.

More Light 2009

More Light Arcola Theatre 2009

Whilst there have been great strides forwards for British East Asians (though to be fair we lag far behind colleagues from other British minority ethnic groups). 

We still have not been able to break through the entrenched, almost subliminally embedded Victorian perspective of what an East Asian should be. In spite of several high-profile productions, since 2013, that have had a majority or completely all British East Asians casts.

 On the small and big screens in the UK, British East Asians are hardly ever to be seen. 
Now when I say British East Asian, what I mean is roles and story lines that don’t cast East Asians as the outsiders, the immigrants, speaking English with a heavy accent. Roles that see East Asians as British. The girls next door, the cabbie, the Doctor or the local shop owner. 

We are far from being there. Which brings me to the casting controversy that The Print Room, an independent (i.e. privately funded) fringe theatre in West London. The Print Room finds itself in a racist casting controversy. And their response to, Yellowface casting, has been found seriously wanting.  In 2017, a production is being performed using Yellowface.

 So for those that may have stumbled across this blog, maybe wondering what on earth I am on about. Why the hell am I complaining about not being included, I should be grateful that I live where I do. Yes, I am lucky that I live where I do. 
But that’s part of the “problem” isn’t. Here we are in the 21st Century and in Britain, a group of British citizens have been edited out of British society and culture. To the point that we are not even able to participate in the re-telling of our own story (fictional or factual).

We are neither British nor in some cases East Asian. Relegated to cultural servitude. As coat hangers upon which others, many of whom see themselves as the innovators and arbiters of art; and are, by and large, the dominant group in society (politially, culturlaly, financially and socially). They dangle and exhibit their artistry, from our history and cultural lineage, exploiting us, but in the same breath, deny us access and any hope of participating in our own culture.

Why am I complaining? Didn’t I open this blog stating that I’m now in rehearsals with an all East Asian cast a the RSC? Yes, I did and yes it is fantastic beyond belief. AND it is A FIRST (I hope the first of many). But this is a FIRST, and it is 2017!
I am more used to the following –
Whether it is ridiculous fancy dress costumes,

img_0410 img_0411
or stereotypical TV/Film roles being portrayed by white actors

img_0412

Janette Tough as Japanese fashion designer Huki  Mukin in the Ab Fab movie

Take a moment and think.

Would you be happy constantly being depicted, in the media and on stage as

img_0413

or

img_0414

No matter what the drama 

add to this the representation of these White British stereotypes are only portrayed by Black or Asian actors never, or seldom, a white actor, wouldn’t you begin to question your place in British society?
 Never seeing a protagonist in any drama portrayed as a white person. White people stripped down to a basic racial and cultural cliche.
Not once, twice but every single time you turn on your TV or go to the cinema, rent a DVD, stream a new TV drama, or listen to a radio play?  

Wouldn’t you begin to feel ever so slightly irked?  Imagine how you might feel after thirty or forty years of this, welcome to my world.

So 2017 has started on the one hand with a huge positive but at the same time with a huge retrograde negative. I hope that there will be more positives and that Britain will truly embrace its own diversity and the benefits that equality and inclusion can bring.

Wishing you all health, happiness, prosperity, and peace.

Adoption in an economic and political context.

Reblogged from Daniel Ibn Zayd

Reblogged from Red Thread Broken

#NotYourAsianSidekick Today, Tomorrow, or Ever.

Re-blogged from fairyprincessdiaries

Panel Schmanel – Stop Talking Already & Just DO it!.

 

 

Children’s books on transracial adoption..

Great way to start a day – a writing submission of mine has been accepted

Submisssions Call! The Perpetual Child: An Adult Adoptee Anthology

Just landed 1963

This is a photograph of me at the age of 11 months I had just landed at London airport. I recreated this photograph using thousands of pictures mostly of Chinese orphan

My first Hong Kong passport picture

This is a photograph of me probably taken not long after I had been found on Austin Avenue in 1963. I recreated this photograph using thousands of pictures mostly of Chinese orphan

My Happy coat

This is a photograph of red Happy coat. Every orphan that was sent from the Fanling babies home was dressed in one of these happy coats. I still have this coat in my possession today. I recreated this photograph using thousands of pictures mostly of Chinese orphan

#Adoption911 | Second Chance Adoptions.

Contributor nos.46 helping me TO GET MY WORK TO THE KING’S HEAD THEATRE is the versatile actress, fight performer

and improviser Eugenia Low.

If you aren’t familiar with Eugenia then please just take a few minutes to visit her website
http://www.eugenialow.com/
614185

Eugenia thank you so much for your support and contribution which is greatly appreciated and valued.

So who is going to be the next contributor and join Eugenia in supporting this campaign?
http://igg.me/at/getlucytothekingshead/x/393196

This is an post that I wrote for The Mothers’ Bridge of Love

abandonedadoptedher-scaled1000

Who Am I?

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. “

E.E. Cummings

“How we remember, what we remember and why we remember form the most personal map of our individuality.”

Christina Baldwin

I think these two quotes sum up for me the journey that I have undergone in order to answer the question “Who Am I”  Over four decades ago as a toddler I was stood on a school desk by my Adoptive mother, the object for a bring and tell*. I’d been dressed in the clothes that I’d worn when I’d first flown over to the UK. Blue trousers and red silk happy coat. I was poked, prodded, pinched and laughed at. As young as I was, I realised that I was not like everyone else. I was different from everyone else. That experience and being slapped across the face at the age of about six, when I asked the direct question, had I been adopted, are the two early defining points for me and who I am. I was not able to define myself physically as I shared no physical or facial similarities to those who lived about me. My likeness was not to be found in any of the black and white TV programs that I was allowed to watch. For the first sixteen years of my life I was defined by other people, my adoptive family, relatives, neighbours, teachers and what those people projected onto me. I was the outsider. The other, a child of difference. In spite of the so called swinging sixties, living as I did in suburban conservative England different was not good. Differences were frowned upon, shunned even feared. My adoptive mother warned me when I was about seven, maybe eight. That if I ever attempted to find out where I had come from, I would be kidnapped by the Chinese embassy and taken back to China. There I would be miserable and have to grow up on a commune. That was the “cold war” working and the West’s fear and misunderstanding of China in the late 50s early 60s. My adoptive mother also warned me that if I did start being nosey, it would prove how ungrateful and wicked I was. The idea of being kidnapped and sent back to China petrified me. At that age I had a vague idea of where China was, but beyond that I new nothing of my culture or racial heritage. China was alien to me. After my adoptive mother had given me this warning I had a recurring nightmare about being kidnapped this lasted well into my late teens. However what that did do is make me want to learn more about China and where I had come from. I used to go to the local library on a weekend and read book after book about China and the Chinese. Most of which I didn’t really understand, but I read them nevertheless. The first three books I read were

  • The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck
  • Journey To The West by Wu Cheng’en
  • Records Of The Grand Historian by Sima Qian

The offering in the local library was not extensive and new books were few and seldom. But as I grew I self taught myself on the culture of China some of its long and complex history. The language I never was able to master. But then in the early sixties without friends of acquaintances that were Chinese how would a person like me learn Chinese?  My cultural discomfort, displacement and disenfranchisement has made me the actor, writer and filmmaker that I am today. I think that it is no co-incidence that I chose a profession where I spend all of my time pretending to be someone else. Speak someone else’s thoughts and express someone else’s emotions. It’s what I call “hiding in plane sight”.  I think over the past couple of years since 2010 I have finally realized who I am. I am Lucy Chau lai-Tuen Sheen. Actor, writer, filmmaker and transracial adoptee.  Knowing where you have come from and how you got to where you are is very important. You cannot truly move forward, progress or develop if you do not know where you have come from.  If you have no cultural or linguistic foundations identity will always elude you. Now that I understand this, I can stand up and be counted for what I truly believe in as  British East Asian transracially adopted person.

*Bring and tell/Show and tell a popular exercise for school children you would be asked to bring in a object and then stand up in front of your class and talk about the object.