Claire Sumi talks to Rosy Moorhead about the Dim Sum Nights new writers showcase

Times Series: Nighthawks, by Claire Sumi, was frequently voted audience favourite when the Dim Sum Nights project launched last year Nighthawks, by Claire Sumi, was frequently voted audience favourite when the Dim Sum Nights project launched last year

Dim sum is a style of Chinese food prepared as a range of small, light dishes, and the Cantonese phrase means ‘touch the heart’. Both of which make it the perfect name for the exciting new theatre project by Yellow Earth.

Dim Sum Nights is a series of five, fresh, bite-sized tales from brand new British East Asian writers, that was launched in November 2011 to showcase up and coming talent, new writing and directing talent in that demographic. The audiences’ favourites from last year’s tour have been developed into this fun, engaging and innovative show that comes to artsdepot next week.

All set in restaurants, the stories range from an unlikely friendship made at a wedding banquet to a family dinner party consumed with love, guilt and hunger; from a troubled man entering a quiet restaurant to a butterfly yearning for love.

Claire Sumi, who grew up in Islington, is the writer of Nighthawks, which was frequently voted the best piece of the night by audiences in 2011.

“It’s a black comedy about a hold-up in a sushi restaurant,” explains the education officer for Polka Theatre for children in Wimbledon. “The restaurant owner believes her food has healing powers and she has two customers who she tries to help, but for a number of reasons it goes wrong – she misreads their situation and also her own ability as a healer.“

Claire, whose mum is Japanese and whose dad is from Leicester, used characters from a play she had originally written for the Royal Court Theatre’s Unheard Voices series in 2011, when the focus was on encouraging and highlighting new East Asian writers, a play that only got to the reading stage.

“It’s really exciting that it’s being produced,“ says the 27-year-old. “I was stoked when I heard mine was one of the shorts to be developed. Yellow Earth worked with us to redevelop our pieces after they were chosen, it was great.“

Dim Sum Nights is touring theatres, theatre studios and restaurants up and down the country this autumn, to take the emerging talent to as wide an audience as possible.

What does Claire think of initiatives like this, that focus on a particular ethnic group or section of society?

“It’s difficult,“ she muses, “you should be able to be picked on your own merit but, equally, there’s an argument that if you look at the theatre industry, it’s not as diverse as it could be. Theatres really do need to reach out to those cultures. I kind of feel both ways about it. These schemes help writers at the beginning of their careers and I’ve certainly benefitted from them. I see them as part of a journey to a more diverse industry.“

  • Dim Sum Nights is at artsdepot, Nether Street, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley on Thursday, November 22 and Friday, November 23 at 7pm. Details: 020 8639 5454, www.artsdepot.co.uk

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