Citizens of Nowhere? @ Sweet Novotel

This show from Chinese Arts Now deftly invites us to question how easy it is to define and change your own identity

Live Review by Conor Loughrey | 21 Aug 2019
  • Citizens of Nowhere?

The audience are dotted around the restaurant, sitting comfortably with drinks when Jun and his mother Linda walk in, take their seats and begin chatting. We listen to their private conversation through headphones, and what might otherwise seem a banal conversation is transformed through the genuine rush of eavesdropping.

We discover that Jun is a young actor from Edinburgh who now lives in London with his Dutch fiancée, while Linda – now separated from his father – moved to England from Hong Kong at the age of 10 before relocating to Scotland. Jun’s sister Jane arrives late, herself now relocated to Hertfordshire, where she has since lost her Scottish accent. This is, in part, because she plans to become a Tory MP, much to the delight of her mother and the disgust of her left-leaning, Scottish Independence-supporting brother.

Ming Ho’s dense, tightly written script explores the conflicting identities of her characters in incredibly thorough detail, as well as the shifting boundaries by which we define ourselves and others. Although it leaves little room for much else, there is plenty of dry humour and occasionally touching moments as the show develops. The ultra-realist setting is effective, but the show also suffers a little from niggling tech issues, such as unbalanced microphone levels.

Ultimately though, Citizens of Nowhere deftly invites us to question how easy it is to define and change your own identity. It sits us face-to-face with the kaleidoscopic make-up of the many cultures and communities so often described as singular monocultures in the media today.

Citizens of Nowhere?, Sweet Novotel (Novotel 4), until 25 Aug, 2pm & 4pm, £16