Broderick Chow, 22 January 2015

London Theatre Seminar
Thursday, 22 January 2015, 6.30-8.30pm
Senate House, Room 349 (third floor)

Broderick Chow (Brunel University), ‘Animatedness, affective labour, and the Filipino performing body on the global stage: from Miss Saigon to Here Lies Love

In this presentation, I investigate the economic, political, and ideological conditions of the racialization of the Filipino/a performer. In the global conditions of its labour, the Filipino/a performing body is defined by adaptability, hiding in plain sight — on show but not seen. Like its predecessors, the 2014 West-End revival of the mega-musical Miss Saigon, for example, followed an established practice casting numerous Filipino/a actors in principal and ensemble roles. Despite the musical’s Vietnam War narrative, the Philippines has since the original production in 1989 been perceived as an ideal place to find ‘authentic’ Asian bodies skilled in the forms and idioms of Western culture, owing to its history of colonization. This practice is exemplary of the peculiarly liminal form of racialization to which the Filipino/a performing body is subject; visibly ‘Other’ and yet skilled at ‘mimicry.’ This perception extends past the theatre to other instances of ‘performance’ that mark the Philippines’ place in the global context of transnational labour and exchange in which, according to Epifanio San Juan, Filipino/a subjects ‘belong to the world’ (1998: 7): viral karaoke videos, cover bands who perform in five-star hotels, call-centre workers and Overseas Contract Workers employed as nurses or domestic workers. In the final part of the presentation, I turn to Here Lies Love, the frenetic immersive musical about the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, as a production that, in its excess of theatricality, challenges the racialization of the Filipino/a performing body.

Broderick Chow is Lecturer in Theatre at Brunel University London, UK, where he teaches theatre theory and history and leads the musical theatre strand of the BA Theatre program. His current project examines fitness and masculinity through the lens of performance studies, and he is also working on a book project on East Asian performance in the UK, with a focus on Filipino/a transnational performance. Broderick has published widely in journals including TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Research, and Contemporary Theatre Review. He is coeditor (with Alex Mangold) of Zizek and Performance (Palgrave, 2014). In November 2014 he was runner-up for the Yasuo Sakakibara Prize for best paper by an international scholar at the American Studies Association Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.