Arts & Culture

Theatre director Jennifer Tang: ‘Proud to say I am British with Chinese heritage’3 min read

If Jennifer Tang had a day off she would start the day with some yoga. Then, she would got out for a nice meal, enjoy a fancy cocktail and then go dancing as she loves anything related to music.

But this is not what her usual day does look like. The 35-year-old theatre director doesn’t even remember the last time she had for herself.

During rehearsals period, she spends most of her day watching the shows, attending meeting and answer phone calls during the lunch break.

Afterwards, if there is another play going on, she moves from one rehearsal to another. This circle repeats until her shows finally go on stage.

“It can be stressful if you’re juggling between three projects at the same time, but you know I’m not saving lives, I’m not a doctor or a surgeon,” said Tang.

Currently, Tang has few projects in development. She has been recently signed as a resident director for a West End musical.

When Tang first started her drama course at university, she initially wanted to become an actress. However, she quickly realised that her path lied somewhere else.

“I was much more interested in the making of the show and its message rather than my one performance in it,” she said.

It was during her second year, after being asked to direct a show, that her career took a drastic change. Her face lit up as she recalled the memories from that episode.

“It was really just a playfully fun time of discovering things for the very first time and that’s when everything clicked into places,” said Tang. “I told myself this is it this is what I want to do.”

Her latest play ‘Ghost Girl’ was shown at the Camden People’s Theatre from January to February.

“It’s been quite a journey with the title, so when I first started thinking about the project a couple of years ago I wanted to call it ‘GweiMui’, which is Cantonese for Ghost Girl,” Tang said.

She explains that ‘GweiMui’ is what Chinese people might use against white foreigners. But it is also a slang term used against other Chinese people who act “too western.”

“I was interested in the idea that you might be called that by Chinese people but also the idea of being ghostly or transparent, because the Chinese are seen as the invisible minority in the UK, so I liked the play on words around that,” said Tang.

The show went through multiple creative directions but then one of the actors suggested using Tang’s personal story as a narrative thread.

Born from Chinese parents in a small town in Kent, she was raised by a British family.

Her birth mother asked a loyal customer, who she had become close friends with, to take care of her daughter in her time of need.

They made an arrangement that this woman would look after Tang while her Chinese mum was working.

“As I’ve gotten older we get on much better,” said Tang about her mother. “I think as a teenager, she wasn’t my mum, I would see her as an aunt.”

Earlier in her life, Tang felt like her birth mother was the only connection to her Chinese roots.

“For a long time there was a part of me that felt uncomfortable in claiming my Chinese origin. It felt kind of wrong to say that I had Chinese identity because I didn’t even know what that meant,” said the theatre director.

She then paused and took a sip of her latte, before continuing.

“Now I’m older and wiser and I’m actually quite proud to say I am British with Chinese heritage but it’s been quite a journey to get there.”

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