Culture Writer Charis Gambon reviews The Chinese Labour Corps, deeming it a significant help in spreading awareness of what Chinese soldiers went through during World War One
The Chinese Labour Corps play was overall a very well done play on an incredibly important subject; the piece was very thought provoking and was most certainly a touching way to honour the memory of those who are not covered in the history books traditionally.
The Chinese Labour Corps theatre production is showcased through the experiences of four members of the corps: Sun Gan (Nathaniel Tan), a teacher called ‘the scribe’ by his colleagues because of his unusual ability to read and write; Lin Cheng (Tao Guo), a skilled weaver who nevertheless finds himself working as an unskilled labourer as the British do not see him as skilled; Liu Den Chen (Ali Taheri) an initially easy-going likeable individual who is a bit of rogue and who later becomes deeply affected by the working conditions and as a direct result becomes an activist; and a woman, Chinn An Chu (Amanda Maud), masquerading as a man, who we later find out has been disguised as a man before during the Boxer Rebellion.
Through the story of the four individuals, we as an audience experience the difficulties and horrors faced by the one hundred thousand Chinese individuals who served alongside the British as part of the labour corps during World War One. The original idea of the corps was to free up British labour corps to enable them to fight on the frontline – Chinese people were never supposed to be anywhere near the frontline – but this proved to be a falsity.
I was shocked that I had never previously heard of the Chinese Labour Corps, despite the fact that I study History and have done so for a number of years. As soon as I found the theatre piece online, I knew that I wanted to watch it as I am always seeking opportunities to gain experience about new parts of history that I did not previously know about. As someone who studies war history, I knew that I absolutely must go and watch The Chinese Labour Corps theatre show. The show did not disappoint me at all, and I am incredibly shocked that such important history was allowed to be hidden from public knowledge.
I found the show to be emotionally moving and believe that all of the actors, directors, and writers did an impeccable job with the piece. I genuinely felt that despite the fact that I was watching a play, I was getting the closest possible experience to the real thing. At the end of the piece, I felt incredibly sad about everything the British state had put Chinese soldiers through. I would recommend that anybody who is interested in war history, particularly World War One goes to see this piece.
The Chinese Labour Corps show is a big step in the right direction to correct the wrongdoings and coverups that Chinese people had to endure. When Chinese people were in Canada, they were kept a secret from the population in order to not create an uproar and now in the modern world they are kept a secret still. The Chinese individuals who were involved deserve recognition and remembrance just the same as any other country that participated in the horrors and atrocities of World War I, and I believe that the creation and showcase of this piece will significantly help in terms of achieving this aim.
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