The Theatreguide.London Review
Royal Court Theatre Spring 2019
White Pearl is a light
comedy with pretensions to social satire that it doesn't quite live
up to. You'll get a few laughs, but the targets of its gentle barbs
will walk away undamaged.
A pan-Asian cosmetics
company run entirely
by women faces a crisis. A proposed TV commercial that is offensively
racist – nice girl uses their skin cream, turns white and gets the
guy, while nasty girl turns black, spouts an afro and explodes –
has been leaked and gone viral.
Everyone goes into
panic, leading to a festival of blame-shifting, scapegoating and
tail-covering, compounded by individual animosities and jealousies,
mutual racism among the Chinese, Japanese, Singaporeans and others,
and just plain bitchiness.
Oh, and there's the
ex-boyfriend of one, happy to stoop to blackmail to win her back.
offending ad is, of course, just a McGuffin, the excuse for
everything else that goes on, and the free-swinging satire touches
lightly on everything from the internet to North Korean repression,
but all just to raise laugh and not with any real outrage or reformer
The women are
specifically identified in the play as coming
from and representing the characteristics of different Asian
cultures, though you will probably have trouble keeping in mind which
is from where. Thanks to Costume Supervisor Lucy Walshaw's design you
are more likely to spot them as the one with the stylish Western
look, the one in the teenybopper microskirt, the one in K-pop punk
and so on.
In notes to the
published text playwright Anchuli Felicia
King specifies which accent and how much mastery of English each
character is to have, but the effect for all but the linguists among
us is just likely to be that bits and pieces of dialogue will be
Under Nana Dakin's
direction the actors never really
deal with this problem, nor do they effectively establish characters
or differentiate among them to much more than implicitly racist
White Pearl is funny. It
is fun to laugh at the various
powder-puff-hard satires and, even though one character at one point
complains 'There's been like too many twists and reveals today,' to
be carried along by the sometimes surprising plots and counterplots
among the women.
Just don't expect more.
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