Citizens of Nowhere offers an unusual start to a Fringe show: we’re given drinks and invited to take a seat at one of tables by the window in Sweet Novotel‘s restaurant-bar area (which by the way, isn’t closed off to the rest of the public).
We pop in the earphones waiting at each place setting and listen to music. Soon we hear voices – in stereo – not only through the earbuds but passing us too. The two characters make their way to a table, engaged in conversation. Shortly after, we notice someone else walking past, heading for the table. Her voice is also heard as we eavesdrop on this familial conversation between a mother and her son and daughter.
The format makes for relaxed, original viewing and listening. Instead of the standard darkened rooms of the Fringe, we bathe in broad daylight. It’s odd at first, with a genuine soundscape of clattering plates, ambient bar noise and waiting staff continually passing. Rather than being distracting, this creates ambience – and our headphone volume is adjustable.
As the characters’ discussions continue, clear themes evolve. The mother, Linda Lo, left Hong Kong for the UK aged 10. Her experience of the challenges she faced – of being accepted and feeling like she doesn’t belong anywhere – is not wholly echoed by her children. Her son, Jun Chi, and daughter, Jane, have adapted and integrated – Jane as a Tory candidate and Jun Chi as an actor. They have their own identities, British born and of Chinese descent. The intergenerational differences are explored as they battle out the family politics of Jun Chi’s upcoming nuptials.
Award-winning script-writer Ming Ho hones in on Linda’s dilemma during the play – whether she should stay, or return to a country she barely remembers, yet feels she belongs to.
Citizens of Nowhere raises pertinent questions, provides insight and provokes thought. In terms of theatre-making, it’s also forward-thinking and creative. There are some moments that seem a little incredulous in terms of the acting, and as there’s little movement in the piece, Jun Chi’s ends up with his back to us for most of it, which is unfortunate. Nonetheless, this is inventive and interesting work.