‘UNTITLED F*CK M*SS S**GON PLAY’ couldn’t have timed its world premiere in Manchester any better, with backlash and nervous anticipation over a revival of ‘Miss Saigon’ due to open in Sheffield in a matter of days. This co-production between Manchester International Festival, the Royal Exchange, the Young Vic and Headlong comes with even more anticipation after winning the inaugural Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2019.
Despite immense critical acclaim, Miss Saigon is plagued with controversy. When we peel it back it is easy to understand why it is now known more for its apparent racist and misogynistic undertones than anything else. This play by Kimber Lee looks to challenge these issues in Roy Alexander Weise’s last production as joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Under Weise’s direction in conjunction with simple set pieces, ‘untitled’ caters perfectly to the unique in the round setting.
Rochelle Rose steals the show as the often hilarious narrator. She takes us through farcical retellings of Madama Butterfly, South Pacific and M*A*S*H. In doing so a light is shone on the quite frankly unbelievable depictions of Asian women throughout time. We are however never at any moment told how we should feel, nor is it dictated how we should think. Using this comedic technique as a story telling device, whilst ensuring sensitive issues are addressed head-on is one of this plays strongest attributes.
‘Untitled’ is careful to be its own piece and doesn’t do the expected by simply re-enacting Miss Saigon, trying to rewrite its wrongs. It makes clear that we cannot simply erase the past, nor should we. The audience however are given the opportunity to challenge their own internalised thoughts, questioning where these have come from. In that respect, ‘untitled’ is a success in making its audience self-evaluate without ever feeling preached to.
Where ‘untitled’ sadly lets itself down is in its pacing. At just under 2 hours without an interval it feels its length, with many scenes feeling overly drawn out. This leads to some of the comedy feeling a little repetitive at times. With careful editing this could be a truly great one act show at a shorter length, and in doing so have even greater impact.
'UNTITLED F*CK M*SS S**GON PLAY' is on at Royal Exchange Theatre until Saturday 22 July 2023, see below for booking information:
Photo Credit: Richard Davenport
Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.