Summer Rolls at Park Theatre
Summer Rolls, the first British-Vietnamese play to be staged in the United Kingdom, shows the complicated stories of a family from a community that is rarely heard. Directed by Kristine Landon-Smith and written by Tuyen Do, the piece explores life in England as a Vietnamese immigrant through the lens of a single family with deep wounds and dark secrets.
The drama is framed akin to a coming-of-age story. It follows Mai (Anna Nguyen), a young photographer raised in England who struggles to connect with her parent’s old-fashioned views and her community’s expectations. As she matures and makes independent life choices her family’s individual scars and stories reveal themselves. From the hardships of the Vietnam War to the underlying racism experienced in the UK, the show presents multiple socio-political themes intertwined into a layered and emotional narrative.
There is a beautiful uniqueness to Tuyen Do’s play. It is full of Vietnamese expressions and culture, and portrays conversations which feature both Vietnamese and English as spoken languages. This uniqueness is elevated by the stunning set by Moi Tran and sound by Nicola Chang. The scenes where Mai’s Black British boyfriend (Keon Martial-Phillip) enters are at points a reminder to the audience that they are still in England as it’s easy to be swept away by the production’s design and stay in the family’s bubble of Vietnamese culture. The components of the piece offer a one-of-a-kind theatrical feast for the senses. The story, however, does seem lacking at certain points. In the second half of the production, moments and developments feel abrupt, such as the mother’s illness, which leads to the reconciliation of the family. At times happiness feels too easy and a deeper investigation of human emotions is called for.
Summer Rolls is fresh, dynamic play and makes a seminal moment in British theatre as being the first of its kind. It gives a voice to the British-Vietnamese community with superb production design and an engaging story.
Photo: Danté Kim
Summer Rolls is at Park Theatre from 19th June until 13th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.