Review: White Pearl, Royal Court

Despite a cracking design, White Pearl doesn’t convince as an effective play at the Royal Court

“It’s just a fun ad. Now the whole world is going crazy”

On the one hand, there’s lots to appreciate about White Pearl, a play about Asian women, written and directed by women of Asian descent and starring them too. Its foregrounding of non-native English voices, subject matter so atypical for the UK, its very programming on a major London stage – this is important stuff.

On the other, it’s not a fantastic piece of writing and as significant as its presence here is – something which should not be left unremarked – nothing is gained by not being frank. Anchuli Felicia King’s play straddles the world of satire and comedy but ultimately satisfies as neither and there’s a reliance on some troubling dramatic tropes.

Set in the beauty industry, pan-Asian, Singapore-based cosmetics company Clearday™ are battling a PR nightmare as they’ve gone viral for all the wrong reasons. Their latest video campaign has been leaked and branded racist – as their team scrabble to save face, faultlines on several frontiers are revealed.

Some are fascinating –  notions of colourism, racism from an altogether different perspective, corporate hypocrisy in even the most well-meaning of businesses. But other aspects frustrate – risible plotting, thinly sketched characters, pacing that is too relentless in its desire to show us awful people are and not much besides. Moi Tran’s set looks amazing though.

Running time: 85 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Helen Murray
White Pearl is booking at the Royal Court until 15th June

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