Summer Rolls by Tuyen Do. Park Theatre – Park 90, London N4 to 13 July. 3***. William Russell

By Tuyen Do.
Park 90, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP to 13 July 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 90 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876

Review: William Russell 24 June.
A family album which enlightens about an unfamiliar world
The first British Vietnamese play to be performed here Summer Rolls is a sprawling family saga dealing with past secrets laid bare as a young woman – her parents have come to Britain as refugees – rebels against the rules of the past. It is always interesting, and the fact that the dialogue is part in Vietnamese, part in English is not a problem when it comes to following the story. The performances, particularly that of Linh-Dan Pham as the mother, a woman who survived the war between north and south as best she could and still battles to ensure the future for her children, and Anna Nguyen as Mai, the daughter who somehow feels she does not fit in and has a passion for photography. The family also feel outcasts in Britain, but they work hard, they prosper, and the iron willed mother in due course sets up a restaurant with her son, like her a survivor of the war. The husband is old fashioned and his values come into ultimately violent conflict with those of his daughter.
Slowly the secrets of the past are revealed, and the play ends with the promise of a better future for some of them as Mai’s decision to take a young coloured man, much to the horror of her parents, and her pregnancy is finally accepted. The play opens a window on a world that is unfamiliar to British audiences and, although the telling of the tale tends to go in fits and starts, for that reason is well worth seeing. Writer Tuyen Do has come up with something truly original.
There is a problem with the production, however. The audience is seated on three side of the acting area and director Kristine Landon-Smith has not really got to grips with the problems this poses for both actors and audience. The actors must somehow speak to all three sides, and too often lines are directed specifically at one side of the audience leaving the rest of the members – and certainly me – struggling to make out why the side being spoken to is responding so enthusiastically to what has been said. You get the thrust of the tale, but not the cut – and the mother has a way with words that is frequently very funny as she deals with the family affairs.
Mother: Linh-Dan Pham.
Father: Kwong Loke.
Mai: Anna Nguyen.
Anh: Michael Phong Lee.
Mr Dinh: David Lee-Jones.
David: Keon Martial Phillip.
Young Ahn: Christopher Mguyen.

Director: Kristine Landon-Smith.
Set & Costume Designer: Moi Tan.
Sound Designer: Nicola Chang.
Lighting Designer: Jessica Hung Ham Yun.
Production Photography: Dante Kim.

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