Interview: Dr Jingan Young on her new play and why theatre is a crucial medium for political stories
Dr Jingan Young is a journalist and writer from Hong Kong and her latest play, which opens at the Vault Festival on 25 February, focuses on censorship in the media.
Here she talks about what inspired the story, communism and freedom of speech and why theatre is such a crucial medium for political stories.
When did you first get interested in writing and specifically writing for the stage?
I didn’t grow up going to the theatre in Hong Kong. I didn’t see my first serious production until after I moved to London for university in 2009. I was transfixed by this world where words directed action and vice versa, where what actors pretended could affect and had affected lives.
And politics, rhetoric…to be able to argue or to explore topics about our lives through drama. I found it visceral, ephemeral, addictive...as I grow older, and as we continue to see the disconnect within the digital and real-world, I see the political importance of having a space for live theatre/live performance where audiences are forced to engage with what they're watching.
I applied on a whim to the Hampstead Theatre’s (now defunct) Heat & Light and rather extraordinarily was mentored by James Graham.
A month later I was admitted into the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme. The training was invaluable.
I was later commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival for my play FILTH (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) on ex-pats in the city.
Later, I set up my own non-profit company Pokfulam Rd Productions, which for four years, championed new writing from South East Asian/East Asian writers & those inspired by it at venues like Theatre503 and the Arcola Theatre.
This culminated in the publication of Foreign Goods, the first British East Asian play collection published by Oberon Books in 2018, the foreword was by my mentor David Henry Hwang.
Tell us a bit about your new play The Life and Death of a Journalist?
Last year, I wrote about the political importance of writing a play about Hong Kong, the city of my birth and an ex-British colony whose freedoms are being eroded by the Chinese Communist Party.
I also discussed the anchor of the play, which is the CCP’s ongoing interference in Britain, specifically, in the media.
My play follows a female journalist who chooses to align herself with a pro-CCP outlet because of her misplaced belief that she can change it from the inside.