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Artist and designer Moi Tran: ‘There is a lack of visible East Asian women in theatre leadership’

With current projects including White Pearl at London’s Royal Court and Tamasha’s Does My Bomb Look Big in This?, designer Moi Tran is also co-founder of the East Asian Ticket Club initiative. She tells Giverny Masso how her art and design practices combine and discusses the lack of East Asian women in theatre leadership roles…

How do your art and design practices connect?
My art practice is equal to my set design work – both inform each other. I completed an MA in fine art at Chelsea College of Arts and the Motley Theatre Design Course and I feel both practices are very aligned. Theatre is brilliant because it’s collaborative: it allows you to carve out a narrative as a group. My art practice is more personal in terms of looking at displacement, migration and narratives within the Vietnamese diaspora. I was born in Vietnam and after the war we left as refugees, so there’s this whole journey that happened earlier in my life that I’m able to unpack a little bit more with my art practice.

What is Does My Bomb Look Big in This? about?
It’s so current in terms of the news surrounding the girls from Bethnal Green, which is interesting because theatre often lags behind in terms of commenting directly on current affairs. It’s a story about three young women from different ethnic groups living in London who are navigating their relationships with each other and the media. One girl, played by writer Nyla Levy, goes through a lot of personal trauma and is groomed into going to Syria. The play explores how the decision to go to these places isn’t as black and white as the media portrays.

What other projects are you working on?
White Pearl at the Royal Court, written by Anchuli Felicia King, who is Thai-Australian. The creative team and cast are predominantly East Asian. This is great in terms of visibility for East Asian creatives. I’m also working on Summer Rolls, a British-Vietnamese play that opens at the Park Theatre in June. Additionally, I’m presenting a piece of work called The Circuit at Prague Quadrennial. It’s a durational movement piece that involves a track and six dancers, and it deals with the visibility of East Asian women in the diaspora.

And what about your project with the British Council later this year?
To mark the 25th year of the British Council being in Vietnam this year, the FamLab programme is encouraging artists to research and create an archive, visual art or performance piece that preserves music, film and performance of Vietnamese traditions. I’m spending three months in Vietnam doing that research. I’m also looking for partners in the UK to host the work that’s eventually made from that.

What have you learned from your recent projects?
A lot of my recent work has made me very aware that there is a lack of visible East Asian women in leadership positions in theatre institutions. We are trying to push our way out there, but it’s glaringly clear that is lacking. People are making work, but where are the people making the big decisions?

CV Moi Tran

Training: BA in fashion and textile design, Winchester School of Art (1999-2002); Motley Theatre Design Course (2009-10); master’s in fine art, Chelsea College of Arts (2016-18)
First professional role: Set/costume design for The Jewish Wife, Battersea Arts Centre (2010)
Agent: Mark Price at AHA

Does My Bomb Look Big in This? [1] is touring until June 11.

See Moi Tran’s website [2] for further details

East Asian Ticket Club set up to improve engagement in arts [3]