Jennifer Tang’s Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui feels like a mood board rather than a finished play. There are a lot of interesting ideas at play here, but at just over an hour long, it feels incomplete.
Siu-See Hung plays the “ghost girl” Kim, born in the UK to Mei (Paula So Man Siu) from Hong Kong and sort-of adopted by a white British couple while Mei retains an uneasy, unofficial custody.
Kim does not speak Cantonese, does not want to think of Mei as her mother, and struggles to negotiate her identity in a predominantly white world that ‘others’ her even as she strives to fit in.
Visually and aurally Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui is a collage. Between scenes, images are projected onto white sheets. These form part of skits inspired by verbatim testimonies. The four central characters, and other peripheral figures played by the cast, frequently shout their lines over one another. Any nuance is overwhelmed by a general sense of emotive display.
The play aches to be expanded. So Man Siu’s Mei is a fragile, fierce and deeply sympathetic character; she cries out for a better-developed narrative. Hung’s drama queen Kim is coruscating, but her emotional arc feels simplified.
Though the play cleverly acknowledges that identity isn’t neat and is always in flux dependent on context, it also doesn’t dive deep enough into its own storyline. Tang has created something sweet, funny and moving, but it’s a sketch, lacking more complex gradations of character and plot.