Gold Mountain, written by David Yip and Kevin Wong and performed by Yip and Eugene Salleh, is at once intimate and large in scale, personal and global. It’s a lot to cram in to a mere hour, but it voyages far and reveals much more than the tale of the two characters on stage.
Salleh (pictured above) plays David, and Yip his father – at first they seem close as the elder reminisces his younger days, some happy, but more often than not full of toil and dreams of prosperity. And as the story of his life moves on, both the dramatic hand of history and his own poor decisions turn a life that was once so full of promise into one of quiet desperation – and capable of causing devastating rifts.
Gold Mountain is autobiographical and reflects Yip’s own life experience, the son of a Chinese immigrant to Liverpool and a local girl. So themes of culture, identity and history run throughout, marked by major milestones such as World War II, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and the Toxteth Riots.
The story, which could probably stand well enough on its own, impresses further still with the visuals of Les Deux Mondes, a French Canadian theatre company whose multimedia expertise accompanies every step of the story through projections, film and tricks of the light. These touches make the dark moments bleaker and the happier memories all the more bittersweet. Gold Mountain is not a performance you will forget quickly.
A vanity project this is not. Yip – known for his roles in The Chinese Detective and Hollywood films including Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (pictured below) – is just fantastic in his role, utterly believable and full of pathos behind those shining eyes. Salleh’s brusque nature in the beginning of the show is not all it seems, as there is plenty to reveal before David can really be understood. These characters are beautifully fleshed out and shaped not only by conscience, but by their heritage and the happenings of the world around them. A simple idea turned into a rich visual experience, it twins the drama of the extraordinary – war and revolution – with the recognisable drudgery of family life.
It is well worth £1 to grab a programme – rare for the Unity – which describes in more detail the story behind the creation of the show and the family life that inspired it.