In our own way, each of us strives to define who we are by making “something” of ourselves. This proverbial “something” takes form in a variety of ways and is dependent on the individual person. In general though, the end goal is to make our loved ones proud, our friends slightly jealous and, if we are being honest, we also kind of hope our awesomeness will transcend our immediate circle and mesmerize everyone around us, including complete strangers. More importantly though, we all want to feel as though we have done something worthwhile and significant and to be content with our choices. However, reaching each and every one of these goals is not always possible and in many cases, the belief that we can have everything we want in a particularly imagined way can prevent us from actually doing something worthwhile and significant.
In Gold Mountain, writers David Yee and Kevin Wong take us on a journey that spans two different continents, political systems, and cultures. The journey is that of David Yee’s father, Yee Lui, from his youth in rural China to his old age in Liverpool, England. Yee Lui is struggling to define himself as man, an immigrant man, in war torn Britain and is wholly unaware of the dramatic repercussions of this self-definition. The play is told in vignettes and shows the audience important events in Yee’s life ranging from the historic political tension brewing in China, his reasons for leaving his homeland, the new way of life Britain offers him, as well as the family he eventually produces. It also shows the disorder Yee Lui creates for himself and for those around him. He often behaves in a reckless manner and seems to either not understand, or be indifferent to, the fact that he has children he should be providing for. Instead, he chooses to gamble, smoke opium with “friends” of questionable character and treat his wife, who literally gave up everything to be with him, as though she is expendable.
Eugene Salleh and David Yip portray more than one character in Gold Mountain and do so with equal passion and conviction. There was never a moment where I felt they were not believable in any of their roles. Salleh in particular was charismatic and emanated a strong stage presence that greatly contributed to the emotional tone of the show. But the true brilliance behind Gold Mountain is not the actual story that is being told but rather how the story is being told. The team of creative artists, all a part of Montreal production company Les Deux Mondes, skilfully employ the use of sliding screens, blankets, fans, birdcages (to name a few) to project a variety of media images upon (photographs, stock footage). And this is only the beginning of their imaginative display which takes a somewhat simplistic story about a son trying to piece together the jagged segments of his father’s broken life and weaves it into an engaging, and often emotional, narrative. Coupled with a captivating and dramatic use of music, Gold Mountain’s multimedia provokes thoughtful insight into what it means to work towards your goals and how it can affect everyone involved.
There were many moments that elicited strong feelings from me as I watched this show but none was as powerful as when David described the story of when his father finally proposed to his mother. Such a beautiful and happy moment was quickly dissolved when the audience was told of the ramifications of such a union, not only for David’s mother, but for the family as a whole. Gold Mountain explores how deeply relationships can be damaged by the choices we make, all because of our desire to “have it all”.