Contemporary Auckland play tackles everyday racism

November 11, 2016

Contemporary Auckland play tackles everyday racism

Actor Alice Canton (left) and producer Julie Zhu. Photo: Rebekah Philson

An Auckland actor is hoping to combat institutionalised racism through her one-woman show.

Alice Canton’s latest play, WHITE/OTHER, opens next week at the Basement Theatre.

WHITE/OTHER is an exploration of Asian identity and misrepresentation, said 29-year-old Ms Canton.

“[The play] is reflecting on how racism pervades our daily lives, and the accumulative effect that it is having on us culturally and socially.”

Ms Canton said everyday racism is not about events that happen in isolation, but the “little things” that added up.

WHITE/OTHER is produced by 23-year-old Julie Zhu. The recent university graduate had also experienced racism that “a lot of people don’t realise is going on”.

“No one, when I was little, was like, ‘You don’t fit in’. No one kind of verbally said that. But it’s something that you feel.”

Ms Canton, who also wrote the play, is the sole actor on stage throughout, though a team of nine people are behind the production.

Written over six months, the show was developed and workshopped once the crew joined her.

“That’s when the really diverse and complex stuff came out, because everyone had different experiences that contributed to the script,” said Ms Canton.

WHITE/OTHER features three different versions of the main character, also called Alice. Through these variations, the cast and crew hope to inspire change.

“I’ve been seeing the piece less as a theatre piece and more like, what kind of things can this achieve?” said Ms Zhu.

Both women are adamant the show is not about guilt, but about recognition.

“It’s a balance of ensuring that everyone who comes to the show leaves realising they are complicit in this really complex problem, but at no time should they feel blamed,” said Ms Canton.

She sees her play as an attempt to dissect common identity questions.

Only Asian identity is shown explicitly in the play, however, the experiences of other minorities are also reflected, said Ms Zhu.

Ms Canton hopes the play will sow seeds of conversation, extending beyond the reach of its initial audience.

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