OzAsia Festival Review: White Pearl


Presented by Sydney Theatre Company and Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta

Reviewed 20 October 2021

An ad for Asian cosmetics firm Clearday goes viral for all the wrong reasons (read: it’s hellishly racist). A social media ticker that punctuates scene changes rises and rises. And the top brass at the company are frantic.

White Pearl, a co-production between Sydney Theatre Company and Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta, written by Anchuli Felicia King and directed by Priscilla Jackman, has an intensely smart core of ideas that immediately set it apart, as it sheds light on the complexities of the global mass market, and total incompatibility (at least, in our current age) of the East and West. A play like this, essentially – and this is high praise, rightly or wrongly – makes you realise the full scope of how the world is; how tangled a knot we are in.

King’s script is undeniably funny, the physicality of each line given spectacular oomph by the brilliantly cohesive cast. Kristy Best in particular is fantastic, giving Priya a kind of clownish height – her ballooning arm-waving and hunter-stalks around the conference table pokes great fun at the buffoonery of “think tank” CEOs. The set design is functional & highly reminiscent of the fluorescent dungeons of the corporate world (though the time taken to redress the set for a 30-second one-sided phone conversation near the start of the play left me wondering if some simpler, smarter choices couldn’t have been made). 

Leaving the theatre, I was buzzing with thoughts, and this I think is where White Pearlsucceeds wholly. The western perspective – that holds capitalism above all else, that deems itself superior both morally and racially; the world of whiteness – is so expertly and economically skewered by King’s script. Her complete control of this world and the economy with which she doles out her ideas is thrilling to watch. 

Good theatre challenges assumptions; great theatre challenges entire worldviews. White Pearl has no trouble fitting into the latter, and makes for sensational theatre.

Review by Callum McLean

Rating out of 5: 4

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse

Season: 20 – 23 Oct

Duration: 1hr 25 mins

Tickets: $65 – $70


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