dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Summer Rolls review at Park Theatre, London – ‘heartfelt portrayal of the British Vietnamese diaspora’

Linh Dan Pham and Anna Nguyen in Summer Rolls at Park Theatre, London. Photo: Danté Kim
by -

Despite the fact that there are around 30,000 Vietnamese-born residents in the UK (rising to around 55,000 if you include the second-generation diaspora), Tuyen Do’s Summer Rolls is the first British Vietnamese play to be staged in the UK.

It bears the hallmarks of a first attempt, with an occasionally creaky script afloat on a narrative choppy with shock reveals. But it also glows with the colour and depth of its characters. Do reveals herself as a sophisticated and empathetic chronicler of people, personality and pain. Though she fumbles with expository overexposure at the level of the line, her scenes are rich, well-rounded and believable.

Anna Nguyen plays Mai, a second-generation daughter of parents who escaped the Vietnam War. Mai struggles with the expectations of her parents and the cultural values she does not necessarily share. As she prepares for her A levels and university (and hides the existence of her black boyfriend), her parents’ and older brother’s traumatic pasts begin to surface, dragging terrible wartime secrets to light.

Set designer Moi Tran, who recently designed the chic and clever set for the Royal Court’s White Pearl, brings a pleasing clarity to the space of the small stage, and Mai’s claustrophobia is easily visualised within the framing bars of bamboo wood.

Though Summer Rolls is replete with twists and compelling characters, the real heart of the story is the fraught relationship between Mai and her mother, superbly played by Linh-Dan Pham. Pham’s portrayal is prickly, resilient and vulnerable; the emotional realism of her interactions with Nguyen’s sparky, conflicted Mai is golden.

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

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
A beautiful, honest, heartfelt portrayal of the British Vietnamese diaspora
^