Untitled F*** M*ss S**gon Play. Photo by Richard Davenport

untitled f*ck mss s**gon play Reviews [Updated]

A reviews round-up for the world premiere of Kimber Lee’s new play untitled f*ck mss s**gon play at the Royal Exchange Manchester, and also the Young Vic in London.

Directed by Roy Alexander Weise, the cast includes Olivier Award nominee Mei Mac (My Neighbour Totoro) as Kim, with Lourdes Faberes (Boiling Point) as Rosie / Cio-Cio, Jennifer Kirby (Call the Midwife) as Evelyn / Richards, Tom Weston-Jones (Sanditon) as Clark, Rochelle Rose (Rockets and Blue Lights) as the Narrator / Brenda, and Jeff D’Sangalang (The Ocean At The End Of The Lane) as Afi/Goro.

The production is designed by Khadija Raza, with costume design by Loren Elstein, lighting design by Josh Pharo, composition by Ruth Chan, sound design by Giles Thomas, movement by Shelley Maxwell, fight and intimacy direction by Haruka Kuroda, Jerwood Assistant Director is Caroline Yu and casting by Helena Palmer CDG.

untitled f*ck mss s**gon play won the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting International Award, and jumps through time to explode lifetimes of repeating Asian stereotypes, wrestling history for the right to control your own narrative in a world that thinks it can tell you who you are.

The play ran at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester as part of the Manchester International Festival until 22 July 2023, and is now playing at the Young Vic Theatre in London to 4 November 2023.

Read reviews from the Guardian, Telegraph and more, with further reviews to be added.

Book tickets to untitled f*ck mss s**gon play at the Young Vic in London

This article was first posted on 4 July 2023, and updated on 25 September 2023.

Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play reviews


"Fiery, audacious satire on the stereotyping of Asian women in Western art and theatre" (Young Vic London)

"Weise stages it beautifully, with stagehands reorienting the same bits of set for each scene, and some dazzlingly maximal lighting from Joshua Pharo which shoves artifice and reality up against each other"

"Lee doesn’t do subtlety here (cf the play’s title) and sometimes it’s an easier play to appreciate than enjoy, particularly in the oblique final scenes full of dazed, raging monologuing. Doesn’t matter though. It’s as if ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ were a play, the way it becomes self-aware, kaleidoscopic, genre-hopping while searching for an Asian-American existence that’s authentic, rather than shaped by centuries of colonial writing."

Tim Bano, TimeOut
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The Evening Standard

"A gruelling watch" (Young Vic London)

"The play is savagely funny as it nails damaging stereotypes, but the repetitions and relentless acid tone soon show diminishing returns"

"Gre*t title, shame about the pl*y... despite the verve of his staging and a compelling central performance from Mei Mac it’s a gruelling watch, hitting us repeatedly over the head with the central issue in the most obvious way."

"The way Lee nails these damaging stereotypes and the fetishistic colonial fantasies that underly them is savagely funny the first time round. But the repetitions and the relentlessly acid tone soon show diminishing returns."

"I can’t really fault Weise’s production, Khadija Raja’s inventive design, or most of the cast... But Lee’s play is emblematic of a certain kind of American drama which uses sledgehammer emphasis to make historically marginalised communities feel ‘seen’ while allowing white theatregoers to feel comfortably guilty."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Telegraph

"A terrifically spiky send-up of Asian stereotypes" (Royal Exchange Manchester)

"Premiering at the Manchester International Festival, this bracing debut is provocative and very funny – even if its targets are obvious"

"Now, a week before Miss Saigon opens, Manchester International Festival delivers this spoofy spiky brickbat from the American writer Kimber Lee, which uses the plot of the Cameron Mackintosh behemoth in shrink-wrapped form to take aim at a century of Asian stereotypes in western culture."

"There’s a nagging impression of low hanging fruit hanging over this play. All the same, Roy Alexander Weise’s assured production is often very funny."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Guardian

"Ferociously funny satire calls out centuries of colonialist dramas" (Royal Exchange Manchester)

"Kimber Lee’s punky polemic circles through pastiches of Madama Butterfly, South Pacific and M*A*S*H, dissecting years of racist, imperialist and misogynistic tropes"

"Imagine if Caryl Churchill had written Noises Off. Like Michael Frayn’s play, which shows the same creaky farce three times from different angles, Kimber Lee’s furious and funny untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play loops through the same story over and again. And like something by Churchill, it cracks open the conventions of naturalistic theatre to engage in a brittle argument with itself. It is punky, polemical and stingingly fresh."

"In heavily satirical style, the playwright circles through pastiche interpretations of Madama Butterfly, South Pacific and M*A*S*H, with nods to The King and I and The World of Suzie Wong, reducing them to the same imperialist tropes."

"... a superb Mei Mac – funny and ferocious – successfully resists being stereotyped as the submissive Kim, only to confront societal pressures beyond her control. She leads an excellent ensemble in a witty, needling and bolshie production."

Mark Fisher, The Guardian
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Manchester Evening News

(Royal Exchange Manchester)

"It’s a pointed drama smuggled in as a dark eclectic comedy of sorts. Sharp, intelligent and confrontational, it rails against the portrayal of Asian women in Miss Saigon and beyond, tackling the intergenerational trauma brought about by tropes and stereotypes that have played out in films, television, plays and other mediums throughout the years."

"Switching seamlessly between laugh-out-loud humour and poignant, harrowing tragedy, the play is equal parts farcical, tender, angry, and pensive."

"Thus despite its confrontational name, it’s a remarkably accessible play, much more so than it could have been considering the heavy subject matter. The play quite literally disintegrates in front of our eyes, but there is a moment of hope and optimism before the final curtain."

Jenna Campbell, Manchester Evening News
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The Stage

"Urgent and clever, but elusive" (Royal Exchange Manchester)

"Kimber Lee’s response to Asian stereotypes in the blockbuster musical Miss Saigon is furious and funny"

"Lee’s play spoofs Madama Butterfly, South Pacific and M*A*S*H, as well as the Boublil and Schönberg blockbuster, with deliberately trite, tacky set and costume changes"

"The repeats speed up, and Kim begins to rail against her fate, which she’s unable to escape. Weise’s production could find more streamlined momentum: it’s effective pastiche, but we get the point quickly, and Lee’s text overdoes the narration."

Holly Williams, The Stage
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The Financial Times

"Dynamite show blowing up Asian stereotypes" (Royal Exchange Manchester)

"Mei Mac takes on cliché portrayals from ‘Madama Butterfly’ to ‘M*A*S*H’ at the Manchester International Festival"

"Crackling with asterisks, untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play is a suitably sparky title for a show that’s like a lit stick of dynamite. Kimber Lee’s breathlessly anarchic, white-knuckle potted history of representation of Asian people in pop culture was written as blowback against the shows that embody it."

"Chirpy song-breakouts reflect how the musicals sanitise these grisly overtones. But it takes time for the rug-pull. Lee toys with her audience like a cat with a mouse; it ridicules for too long before it strikes."

"Sometimes Lee singes rather than scorches, but on the whole, Miss Saigon doesn’t stand a chance."

Matt Barton, The Financial Times
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The Observer

(Royal Exchange Manchester)

"Kimber Lee’s untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play, ripping into the portrayal of Asian characters, is an overdue corrective: so evidently overdue that at times it seems obvious. It is accurate and needed."

"Mei Mac is very good at the sardonic scampering required for the isn’t-she-dinky heroine. Rochelle Rose carries off the hard-to-handle role of narrator, magisterially underlining that these characters do not usually voice their own stories."

"This show begins to alter what we see on stage."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play

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📷 Main photo: Untitled F*** M*ss S**gon Play. Photo by Richard Davenport

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