The idea that racism is itself a virus with a toxic global spread has gained traction during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly since the killing of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. This series by Moongate Productions and Omnibus theatre begins with that premise and focuses specifically on racism exacerbated by Covid-19 and enacted against Britain’s east and south-east Asian communities.

“We are not a virus,” is a repeated refrain in these 10 quick-response dramas made to raise awareness of the 21% rise in reported hate crimes towards these communities, and amounting to two hours of theatre on film that incorporates animation, poetry, music and dance.

Directed by Jennifer Tang and Anthony Lau, many of the shows speak of racist cliches hurled on the street or physical attacks in the supermarket, and also of bigots who swerve away on buses or trains for “fear” of sitting next to someone of Chinese origin at this time.

Several works deliver their message in direct address or monologue, the actor sometimes speaking in verse. The titular piece, written by Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen, is the result of a callout in May to east Asian women who each recorded themselves reading out a line from the script and it is the snappiest and most rousing of these direct addresses. Edited by Joseph Brett in the style of a Twitter video, the women make their statements to camera: “I am not a tourist.” “I am not yellow.” “I do not eat raw bat.” “I am not your diversity.” “I am the retail assistant you made fun of.” “I am you.”

Racism-induced agoraphobia emerges across several works, from Sam (Michael Phong Le), who needs his toilet seat fixing in Shame (written by Jimin Suh) but cannot stomach the abuse he may face outside, to Kirsty Rider’s character in It’s Not a Game to Someone (written by Nemo Martin) who takes us through an east Asian recipe on screen but whose inner voice tells us “I’m kind of scared to go out for a walk”.

Contagion, written by Oladipo Agboluaje and narrated and performed by Simon Manyonda (also featuring series producers, Jennifer Lim and Daniel York Loh) is among the strongest, tackling anti-African racism in China by cleverly combining animation by NoMattsland with film to disturbingly comic effect. JM Arrow’s Do My Eyes Look Small in This, which features a bisexual Muslim woman (Peyvand Sadeghian) putting on her makeup and then her niqab, is also strong and reveals the intersections of the abuse she faces.

Politically, there is a cumulative power in this series, though as theatre the message sometimes eclipses the stories. The best among them are well-crafted and original responses to the pandemic of race hate.

WeRNotVirus is available from 17 June on YouTube.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Wrecked Mauritius oil spill ship breaks in two

A Japanese bulk carrier that has leaked hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil off the Mauritius coast has broken apart, authorities in the island nation say. The MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef on 25 July with 4,000…

Denmark pauses coronavirus mink slaughter after criticism

About 17 million animals were to be gassed and either burned or thrown into mass graves amid fears of a new Covid-19 mutation that started in mink farms But it is now clear that the government lacks the three-quarter majority…

Erdogan, Putin discuss Syria as Turkey demands truce in Idlib

Reyhanli, Turkey – The presidents of Turkey and Russia have “voiced concern” about the escalation of tensions in northwest Syria, a day after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in air raids by Moscow-backed Syrian government forces. Friday’s phone call…

Main Irish opposition surged into 12-point lead as election called

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s main opposition party, Fianna Fail, surged into a 12-point lead over the governing Fine Gael party according to an opinion poll that was published on Sunday but conducted mainly before Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called a…