David Yip’s Gold Mountain has been gestating for around 25 years, starting life as a series of tapes Yip recorded with his father in his twilight years.
It tells the story of Yip’s father, Yee Liu, moving from China to Liverpool – and the story of China from nationalist republic to communism.
Another strong element is Yip’s relationship with his father; the latter’s tall tales, erratic behaviour and declining health later in life placing a strain on his family.
As a two-hander, David Yip as Yee Liu and Eugene Salleh as, well, David Yip were perfectly pitched. Yip’s performance, particularly, as his own father was poignant, amusing and pathetic by turn.
Yip’s performance did not sentimentalise or condemn Yee Liu; a complex character it may have been hard to warm to. But his ultimately rather tragic life and selfish choices throughout his life are softened by Yip’s affecting portrayal.
Visually, Gold Mountain is stunning in its simplicity. Projections and lighting combined to make a experience that is variously beautiful and haunting.
A projection of Yip’s beautiful mother, Mary – who sacrificed her relationship with her own family to marry Yee Liu and had a smile that could ‘cheer up the rain’ – onto two large fans held by Yip and Salleh was a stunning and memorable moment in the production.
The soundtrack and audio beds are similarly simple and effective, and show what a valuable contribution French-Canadian company Les Deux Mondes made to Gold Mountain.
Arguably there were a few issues that did not come across as clearly as they might have – a pivotal moment at the climax of the play may have been lost on some – but overall Gold Mountain is an intriguing, visually beautiful and emotionally powerful piece of theatre.
That it has premiered in Liverpool, a city with a strong Chinese community and home of Yip, seems fitting and important.
• Gold Mountain runs at the Unity Theatre until 16 October