Savage beauty shines in the sharp satire of White Pearl

QT-White-Pearl-photo-by-Rene-VaileAn hilarious new Australian play that shows how beauty can get ugly, Anchuli Felicia King’s toxic workplace comedy, White Pearl will be presented at Queensland Theatre’s Bille Brown Theatre from 19 June, before touring to Sydney, Parramatta and Canberra.

This searing satire will heat up a chilly Brisbane evening with laughs and gasps a plenty, shining a light on toxic workplace culture, not-so-casual racism and the business of selling shame.

White Pearl is set in the offices of Clearday, a cosmetics start-up in Singapore that hits the big time… before something else hits the fan! When a video goes viral for all the wrong reasons, a nest of secrets, lies and resentment soon opens amongst Clearday’s all-women team. Someone is definitely getting fired today.

Penned by prolific playwright Anchuli Felicia King, and winner of the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Ensemble in 2019, White Pearl touches on some timely topics that got under the skin of the young Thai-Australian writer.

“My play explores a grocery list of themes – the beauty industry, the multiplicity of ‘Asian’ identities, intra-cultural racism, millennial corporate culture, global discourse and the internet, and shame as a cultural commodity,” said Anchuli Felicia King. “At its core, White Pearl is really about communication: the ways we use language to gain or cede power.”

“I’m so excited to get to bring this play to Queensland audiences, particularly Asian and Asian-Australian audience members. The original season had such a strong resonance, and we got such amazing responses from Asian audiences in Sydney and I can’t wait to see what Queenslanders make of it.”

Directed by Priscilla Jackman (Still Point Turning) the characters of White Pearl reflect a cross-cultural mix of Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, Singaporean, Thai, English and American women, with the play highlighting the complexity of such pan-Asian relations, along with the worst of corporate culture.

Jackman directs a stellar cast including Deborah An, Cheryl Ho, Mayu Iwaski, Nicole Milinkovic, Matthew Pearce, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, and Lin Yin.

White Pearl is a great office comedy,” says Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Lee Lewis. “That’s why it’s onstage in 2021 – we all recognise the office politics. We all recognise the fear of things going wrong online, and it’s funny when it happens on stage, but wow, Clearday is having a really bad day!”

“Yes, there are big politics embedded in White Pearl, but sometimes comedy is the best way to consider some issues. There are things David Williamson has been able to say that can be really confronting, but he has put his politics into comedy – we hear big ideas differently when we are laughing as an audience, and Anchuli takes outrageous advantage of this.”

“Anchuli is one of the global theatre thinkers. She has a distinctly Australian interpretation of the world – definitely an Australian sense of humour – along with an international confidence that makes her a leader amongst the next generation of Australian writers.”

“Anchuli’s writing is irreverent, hilarious, confronting and clever – which all adds up to her being one of the new powerhouse voices on the Australian stage. We can’t wait to premiere White Pearl in Queensland,” said Lewis.

Director: Priscilla Jackman | Featuring: Deborah An, Cheryl Ho, Mayu Iwaski, Nicole Milinkovic, Matthew Pearce, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, Lin Yin | Designer: Jeremy Allen | Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper | Composer and Sound Designer: Michael Toisuta | Composer and Associate Sound Designer: Me-Lee Hay | Projection Designer: Anchuli Felicia King | Dramaturg: Courtney Stewart | Voice Coach: Amy Hume

White Pearl
Bille Brown Theatre – Queensland Theatre, 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane
Season: 19 June – 10 July 2021
Information and Bookings:

Following the Brisbane season, White Pearl will be presented at Wharf 2 Theatre – Sydney Theatre Company (15 July – 4 September); Riverside Theatres, Parramatta (9 – 11 September); and The Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre (15 – 18 September).

Image: White Pearl – photo by Rene Vaile