I first heard about Wild Swans back in December, reading the call for chorus auditions through the Young Vic e-newsletter. Despite some initial reservations about time commmitment required and nervousness regarding my own notable lack of performance skills, I thought ‘Why not!?’ It sounded like a really unique opportunity, especially as they were calling for two large choruses to support the cast. I am also a fan of Young Vic already and knowing their reputation for new writing and creative productions, I was curious about how they would adapt Jung Chang’s epic bestseller for the stage.
Now, with one week left to go before the show ends on 13 May, and my time on the stage finished as part of chorus A, I look back on my experience and feel truly happy and grateful that I have been part of something so incredible, that has brought so many people together and touched our lives in ways we couldn’t have expected back in January, when we first auditioned.
For instance, after telling them that I was part of the chorus, the Chinese Youth Club that made a huge difference in my life growing up – the Pagoda Arts Group from Liverpool – came to see a weekend matinee performance of Wild Swans, bringing fifteen young people down to London from Liverpool. I know seeing the production will have had a positive impact on their lives, as a still relatively marginalised community growing up in a still relatively poor part of the UK, with less opportunity to access the arts. The visit gave them a chance to see for the first time, a critically-acclaimed play at a major London theatre, featuring an all Asian cast, about a history that has probably affected their own families. Following the visit, the organisers fed back that there were tears, and that the young people were blown away by the production.
It makes me hugely proud to have been involved in Wild Swans with the chorus, wonderful cast, talented writing and creative team and hardworking backstage crew. Not only has the production received deserved praise across the board from critics and the public alike (it sold out quickly and really has been the hot ticket for London theatre this month!), it has also made a difference to the Chinese community here in the UK. Furthermore, the production has made me delve into my own heritage and discover some of the consequences that the Mao era had on my own family.
Now that the Wild Swans journey is ending, I will take away with me memories of backstage banter, market scene hilarity, endless practice of songs and placard-waving, and a fabulous karaoke night finale. I’ve met some incredibly talented people and most importantly made some great friends. Wild Swans has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. Thank you Young Vic!
Sharon Chou, member of the community chorus of Wild Swans