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From Shore to Shore review at Yang Sing Restaurant, Manchester – ‘an engaging portrait of British-Chinese life’

Luna Dai in From Shore to Shore at Yang Sing Restaurant, Manchester. Photo: Lee Baxter

Three stories shedding light on various aspects of the British-Chinese experience are cleverly interwoven in this production that combines dining with verbatim theatre.

First performed in 2017, From Shore to Shore is constructed from interviews with people living in and around Leeds who have travelled to the UK from China. It is designed to be performed in Chinese restaurants accompanied by a two-course Chinese meal, sensibly served up either side of, rather than during, the production.

Writers Mary Cooper and MW Sun have distilled the various testimonies into the stories of three main characters. The intercut action is a little dense and, as it jumps backwards and forwards in time, occasionally disorienting. But, as the stories intersect and it transpires that the characters are part of the same extended family, a more cohesive picture of assimilation, cultural identity and intergenerational conflict emerges. Food – both the lack of it and the way it unites people – is a reoccurring theme.

Ozzie Yue is a genial central presence as Cheung Wing, the elder member of the family whose escape from invading Japanese forces and separation from and reunion with his mother provides the play’s most dramatic and emotionally satisfying strand.

Director David KS Tse manages to achieve a lot with a limited space, with set-pieces such as the whole cast becoming a schoolyard full of nursery-rhyme-singing children or uniting for an affecting English-Chinese rendition of What a Friend We Have in Jesus – delicately accompanied by Nicola Chang’s keyboard music – overcoming the venue’s limitations and breaking up the long stretches of dialogue.

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A committed cast and clever visual touches combine to create an engaging portrait of British-Chinese life