As a part of the sixth year of Shanghai Pride celebrations, East West Theatre present their production, Bite My Thumb. Our Theatre and Arts editor Hannah Cherrington-Hall popped over for a chin-wag with the cast.
I thought I’d start with the title. What’s the relevance of ‘Bite My Thumb” to the narrative?
Director – Danny: It’s one of the famous lines from Romeo and Juliet, so it should conjure images already of the war between the two families. It’s something that is kind of an insult and an invitation to fight. Which actually is how it is translated in Chinese, and is a famous Chinese saying that means, ‘Are you ready to fight?’
So, the physical action of biting your thumb is quite cheeky, but with this conflict now in mind, could it also mean something similar to the saying “hold your tongue”; don’t retaliate. Or are you pushing for the fight?
Director – Danny: We’re not shying away from getting in each other’s faces. There are so many forceful personalities, they can’t help but clash. Every character has an agenda, and naturally wants defense.
Could you give me one message you feel is portrayed in this play?
Anita/Julie: I’d say it’s about finding yourself, who you are and who you want to be in this life; who you want to become and to fight for your identity.
Would you describe your character as one who surpasses traditional gender roles?
Anita/Julie: It’s all about who people think you are, like, they assume you are this [type of] person [… ] because of your orientation. They say, “oh, you are just a pretty girl, you cannot do anything.” That reflects my character Julie too, because she started off being just that pretty girl. She wants to prove she can do something else. We want to show all the different angles we have inside, and all the different things we can do. I like this play because it’s really inspirational. It inspires you to embrace who you are.
Scarlet, tell me about your character, what role do you play?
Scarlet/Jo-nurse - I play Jo-nurse, I am the butchest of the three lesbians, well two lesbians and one bisexual, if you couldn’t tell!
Did you have to workout for this role?
Scarlet/Jo-nurse - No, I’m basically playing myself plus having an interest in women. My character is a little bit older than the other females, and one too many times she hasn’t been given the roles that she deserves just because of her looks. She isn’t pretty enough or tiny enough to play Juliette, or she isn’t a boy [to play the part of Romeo.]
So, would you character have preferred to play the role of Romeo?
Scarlet/Jo-nurse - [My character] would have wanted to play Romeo. She kind of just snaps at one point; out of the five fights I have 3 of them. I get to beat the handsome abs man. It’s actually really exciting, I took stage combat in college, so I was really excited when I got cast in this because we were going to get to fight with swords. Our choreographer, London, he was super excited to have someone who had experience and even Jenny and Anita are like, “you’re really scary!” It’s just comfortable; it’s like riding a bike for me, playing with that sword…
Peter aka male Romeo pipes up in full character… My character is the greatest actor and producer in the world.
And that’s what he thinks of himself, Peter?
Peter/male Romeo - Clearly! He thinks highly of himself, and he gets a lot of support from his peers. Probably also has some insecurities, but he tries to bury them in the support of his best friend, Ben. That’s important to him also, that people don’t betray him. So in this play, when he feels so very betrayed, he has to do something crazy. Which is what drives the whole story really.
What would you say is the highlight of the play? What should our audience look out for?
We would say the highlight of this play is the message, the thought inducing dialogue, especially towards the end. That is really what will probably leave a mark on the people as they go out.
P.S. Bite my Thumb’s Jeremy, aka Mercutio, is the costume designer for the play, and he’s also a well-known Drag Queen in Shanghai, so expect fabulous and quirky designs.
June 18th 2015 – 2 performances – Thursday Only
Doors open 19:30 & 21:00 – shows at 20:00 & 21:30
At Happiness 42 – 42 Xingfu Road, near Fahuazhen Road
Tickets are 120 RMB – All tickets include a complimentary drink
Available at www.huodongxing.com/go/shptfbite
Interview and words by Hannah Cherrington-Hall