It’s July 1st, 2017, precisely twenty years after China took back Hong Kong from the British. A citizen of Hong Kong, Jenna Wong, enters a lottery she finds on the internet called the “Immigration Lottery”. Months later she finds that she has won the lottery and no longer has her old national identity. She is then forced to report to the immigration office to be assigned her new national identity by the Chinese Government. What follows is a politically astute and relevant play about a woman trying to find her new identity when her true one has been taken away from her by the government.
Lam plays with this idea of a lost and distorted identity brilliantly and the theme and its political implications gradually creep up on you.
The Immigration Lottery is a mixed language piece of satirical new writing from Hong Kong. It’s written, directed and performed by Cathy Lam and accompanied and produced by Angel Chan. It is an intelligent and brave, politically charged play, exploring the diminishing freedom and identity of the Hong Kong people under the Chinese Government. It begins in darkness, with the protagonist performing a government protest demonstration in Chinese. But the words are provided in English in the programme. They ask:
“...What is the endgame of our society from over development? Money is all that matters... They locked us up, they brainwashed us, they reformed us through labor camp, they became our new god. Can we escape? Can we fly again? Who are we? Or don’t we care anymore?”
Those last two questions form the crux of the play (the rest of which is entirely in English) and Cathy Lam creates an engaging and lively comical performance about a very lost woman trying to find her identity. Lam plays with this idea of a lost and distorted identity brilliantly and the theme and its political implications gradually creep up on you.
Lam’s writing and delivery is witty and fast paced. Her performance is versatile; she jumps through various Chinese stereotypes and plays with what possible age she could be now she apparently has no identity. If your national identity is being played with then why shouldn’t everything else? She also says she is a virgin but then later comments, “I don’t think I am a virgin because we’re fucked by the government every day.”
When she is asked if she doesn’t like the government she becomes terrified and then breaks into a forced hypnotic song, singing “We love Hong Kong, we love China.” The play is a biting commentary on the dissatisfaction felt by Hong Kong citizens since Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 and China’s influence on Hong Kong’s government and legislation has become increasingly tight. Lam’s writing is informed by the annual protests for democracy in Hong Kong and the candlelight gathering every June 4th in remembrance of the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989.
It’s a powerful and provocative play, but it’s also a complicated one and for those unfamiliar with current affairs in China, it’s easy to get lost. The play would benefit from a discussion from the performers about the themes of the play but if you stay to ask Cathy Lam about it, she’ll do her utmost to tell you all she can.
The complexity of the play shouldn’t put audiences off, nor should the language or cultural barriers. This is an important but fun play that is performed with vibrant energy. It’s thought-provoking and relevant, very funny and well-performed. A brave new play, well worth forty-five minutes of your time and deserving of critical attention. It’s only got one week left at the Fringe and audiences should catch it while they can.