Reviews from our 2019 tour to Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster, Morecambe, Newcastle and Birmingham
“Mary Cooper and MW Sun’s work, which danced between English, Cantonese and Mandarin, managed to successfully tell three distinct stories with only subtle changes in the set and lighting. Restricted by the choice of venue and limited staging, it might have been challenging to follow, but by virtue of being well acted, directed and laced with song, the performers were able to keep the audience engaged.”
“This rich, dreamlike play feeds body and soul as it chronicles the complex lives of migrants from China.
Accordingly, David KS Tse’s fluid production for On the Wire is performed in a working restaurant as a theatrical main course in between the sweet-and-sour soup and the tofu. In a space cleared between the tables, the seven-strong company weaves emblematic narratives in and out of each other. Drawn from conversations with Chinese people living in West Yorkshire, the stories are compelling not for any high drama but for the rich detail of lives lived. They have the impressionistic quality of a dream.”
“For decades the venerable Ozzie Yue has been almost singlehandedly flying the flag for British Chinese actors on our TV screens, and plays community elder Cheung Wing who survived the privations of Japan’s invasion of China in 1937 eventually migrating to open a Yorkshire takeaway.
From Shore To Shore does raise the question why we so seldom see British Chinese actors in high profile TV roles, and judging by the firepower on show here there really is no excuse to keep ignoring our third biggest BAME community.
For some in this country it us all closing our borders and fearing the ‘others’, but From Shore to Shore is a timely reminder that xenophobia only corrodes the diversity that makes us great.”
British Theatre Guide (Yang Sing, Manchester)
“The script is mostly in English with passages of Mandarin and Cantonese, but it is always clear what is happening even to the monolinguals in the audience. Most of the cast play multiple roles—as well as the above mentioned, Alice Lee plays the mothers of all three characters, Windson Liong is the fathers of both girls amongst other roles and Lucy Lan Luo fills in a few other characters—but changes in character are skillfully performed so there is never any confusion.
Although the play jumps between different stories in a very short running time, these are characters that feel real and that you can grow to care about. The parts that work best are moments of straightforward storytelling and extended scenes between characters; the moment when young Cheung Wing is reunited with his mother is subtly played and sparse in dialogue but all the more moving for this.
For the Chinese communities whose stories these are, it is important that their heritage is kept alive in some way, and this play plays a small part in doing this; for the rest of us, these are well-told tales that give a small insight into a culture that often seems alien to us in an entertaining evening that also includes some good food—all for the price of a decent seat for many theatres in the region.”
“First performed in 2017, From Shore to Shore is constructed from interviews with people living in and around Leeds who have travelled to the UK from China. It is designed to be performed in Chinese restaurants accompanied by a two-course Chinese meal, sensibly served up either side of, rather than during, the production.
Director David KS Tse manages to achieve a lot with a limited space, with set-pieces such as the whole cast becoming a schoolyard full of nursery-rhyme-singing children or uniting for an affecting English-Chinese rendition of What a Friend We Have in Jesus – delicately accompanied by Nicola Chang’s keyboard music – overcoming the venue’s limitations and breaking up the long stretches of dialogue.”
“Mary Cooper’s writing cleverly uses signposting to historical events – such as the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square protests – to help contextualise the action. This shows that the stories on display here are not stand-alone tales but are representative of more universal themes in the lives of Chinese migrants.
Douglas Kuhrt’s lighting design breaks the action up, keeping scenes cleanly divided in the absence of any significant scenery. There are no illusions that this was ever intended to be a theatre space. The environment is far from ideal, but the cast nimbly zip between the chairs of the audiences as they enter and exit the stage and soldier on through noisy disruptions, making the best of the situation.
It is certainly true that stories such as these are woefully under-represented in British theatre. Despite its flaws, From Shore to Shore does a good job of beginning to redress this imbalance.”
“Delivered in English as well as Mandarin and Cantonese, From Shore To Shore is a wonderfully satisfying saga that is both believable and insightful thanks to the universally appealing exploration of the notion of unexpected winners going from rags to riches, from famine to feast. The multilingual script needed no extra translation, body language and facial expressions were so good that it was obvious what emotion and expression was being communicated.
From Shore To Shore is a beautifully written and delightfully presented theatrical experience which delivers a full-blown play alongside a full Chinese meal. And it’s not just any old play, this feels like much more than a story about the Chinese community. Some of the most obvious and superficial cultural cliches are opened right up and exposed, the result is multiple insights that truly get to the human story that lies underneath.
There’s usually always an intriguing story hidden behind cultural cliches and stereotypes – From Shore To Shore feels as if it is definitely telling it.”
4.4 ★ / 5.0
“From Shore to Shore is a strikingly positive play. All of the characters face hardship in some form but refuse to despair. Resolution to continue rather than optimism pushes the characters onwards- giving up is never considered. Ozzie Yue, who plays the aged Cheung Wing has a sparkling outlook as he reviews his life including the period when he was kidnapped from his mother and forced to work for strangers. There is only a single report of overt racism and all of the characters are determined to fit into their new homeland. Luna Di’s studious Mei Lan goes so far as to record phrases she finds puzzling to look them up at leisure.
The play does not shy away from the contradictions in Chinese culture. The aged matriarch is venerated and able to treat her grandchildren like servants but the birth of a baby girl, rather than a boy, is regarded as a disaster.”
“So much more could be said about this piece than the space of a review allows. An audience member (with no Chinese associations) confided that the play had moved her to tears but it must be iterated that ‘From Shore To Shore’ is not just a powerful drama but a very, positive play and a splendid achievement. This reviewer would certainly defy anybody to go and see the show and not feel the better for having done so.”
“Characters are quickly and convincingly brought to life as the three seemingly disparate narrative strands start to eventually come together.
Despite the relatively small cast and the tight staging area, director David K S Tse cleverly creates moments of hustle and bustle as well as quieter reflective sections. There are some striking scenes involving collective singing and synchronised movement, and an effective use of ‘off stage’ voices to echo phrases and interject.
Douglas Kuhrt’s lighting design transforms the space and helps to clearly signal shifts in time and mood, bathing the performers in a warm golden glow or plunging them into a blanket of stark blue, while Nicola Chang’s music adds subtle depth to events.”
“Dealing with family relationships, racism, culture, Chinese beliefs and much more, as each characters story unfolds, their experiences are tinged with humour, sadness, happiness and disbelief. Exploring the challenges the characters face as they grow up in Yorkshire, the cast flit between characters as their stories conclude in one positive heartwarming finale.
From Shore To Shore is a play that will have you laughing, crying and thinking and, while it might not be to everyone’s taste, this unique play is something that will give you plenty of food for thought and where better place for that than in a top Chinese restaurant?”
“On the Wire creates theatrical experiences in unexpected places – which in the case of From Shore to Shore are a series of Chinese restaurants across the country where dinner and a show becomes a rewarding communal experience.
There’s great ensemble work from the [seven]-strong cast who swap seamlessly from English to Mandarin to Cantonese in the same breath, while the action unfolds against an atmospheric live soundscape, including the chiming clarity of a singing bowl which punctuates the changing scenes.”
“A Chinese cast of seven play some 18 characters in the round, telling simple tales of the transgression from East to West, sewn with intricacy. Inspired by real life stories from Chinese people of all ages living in Leeds and West Yorkshire, this is not a sympathetic tale or a winsome lament of China. It is a look behind the counter, beyond the culture and success, into the lives of people who live within these communities and whose plight is practically unknown. It is also a conversation starter about how people travel from their motherland and build a community in another country to help each other to survive.”
British Theatre Guide (The Dukes, Lancaster)
“From Shore to Shore expands the remit to cover a century of Chinese history through the stories of several characters caught up in everything from the Sino-Japanese war, through Mao’s Cultural Revolution, to the everyday concerns of contemporary members of the UK’s Chinese society. It smartly illustrates how little we know or understand about the communities within our midst, but in a quietly effective way. It also underlines the particular significance of Chinese food either as reward, ritual or for plain survival, let alone as a business proposition.”