Tag Archives: The King and I

Responses to criticism of a white man in the role of a Thai king – Part 2

Here is Part 2 of a series about the criticism that has been directed towards Byron Bache’s article about Teddy Tahu Rhodes being cast as the King of Siam in an upcoming Australian production of The King and IPart 1 can be found here. 

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Yes I suppose he does.

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Hmm…you kind of got me there. Just kidding. Let’s begin with your claim that it’s a bit difficult to determine when ethnicity is irrelevant to the plot. That would be up to the director and his team to decide, in this instance, they’ve decided, erroneously, ‘how much can we profit out of a production when the lead is a Thai or an Asian compared to if the King is Teddy-frickin’ Tahu Rhodes? The latter of whom has been the subject of Australian tabloid fodder for ages now. Ya feel me? Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted over the centuries, playwrights are able to alter all sorts of details to suit their reinterpretations as they see fit. *Sigh* of course the duke, duchess, king, queen etc… don’t have to be white because simply because the Elizabethan era dictates it. HOWEVER it doesn’t excuse the fact that Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini, claims the ethnicity of the lead role was irrelevant and yet the lesser known roles of Lady Thiang, Lun Tha and the chorus,  were for ‘dancers of any Asian ethnicity’.  Here, I even drew a table to explain it to your dumb ass.

The King of Siam Chorus, Lady Thiang, Lun Tha
Lead role, spends the most time in front of audience Smaller roles, lesser known and spends less time in front of audience.
Race is irrelevant Race is very relevant

Conclusion: Big roles, no need to be Asian. Small roles, has to be Asian.

And that’s why it’s fucking disgraceful and hypocritical. You are correct though, by no means is The King & I a documentary, As for the fact that the King’s ethnicity isn’t mentioned, guiltily, when I heard: ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’ and The King & I and The King of Siam, Siam being what Thailand was called prior 1939, I just assumed that he would be …Thai! Crazy huh?

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Utter crap? There are many valid points in the article, you’re just too entrenched in your fucking twisted ideals to see them mate. The most obvious one of which is questioning that ‘the best musical theatre performers Opera Australia could find’ is Teddy and Lisa McCune. Another Teddy fan have we? Byron does not think that including Teddy’s entire CV is as important as addressing the issue of profit before giving an underrepresented opera singer a go, and don’t tell me that money should trump fairness because it’s realistic. Thai opera singers are jobbing performers too that should get a role meant for them and thus, a pay check. The reality is their role has to go to someone who doesn’t remotely resemble an Asian in appearance, that the best performer for a Thai role, is not a Thai. It’s like being told the ethnicity you are born as, what you had no choice in deciding, is not good enough to portray what you actually are, THAT’S their reality. No, no, no, no, NO! ARRRRRRRGGGGH! How dare you try and use the holy grail of Shakespeare in your defense. Othello is described as a moor, he is ostracised because of his skin colour, it wouldn’t make any sense for him to be another ethnicity otherwise unless the play was rewritten. I have not the pleasure of seeing Placido Domingo (a Spaniard) in the role of Othello, so my knowledge of this is very limited but chrissakes, that does not make it fucking alright. And what exactly does the writing reveal about the author? That he is against the prejudiced casting by GordonFrost/Opera Australia? Anyway I have spent ample time countering your vile writing, for now.

That’s all from me for a while folks, please share, retweet and leave comments below if you’d like. Cheerio~

Responses to criticism of a white man in the role of a Thai king – Part 1

I promised I would respond to the criticisms that have been directed to Byron Bache’s article about the casting of a white opera singer in the role of a Thai king. Do enjoy.

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This ‘moot point’ that a Thai would never assume this role because they would find it offensive, is clearly addressed when Byron states ‘…with Asian performers still drastically under-represented in the theatre, the casting of Rhodes as a Thai king is downright shameful.’ All too often are ethnic roles white-washed, why shouldn’t a Thai represent a Thai on stage? THAT is the ‘moot point’ here. Unless you are a Thai performer with extensive stage experience, unless you have those specifics, I’m going to assume that you don’t know whether or not that Thai performer would or would not consider The King of Siam role. There is a gaping hole in your argument, this musical is about a Thai king OF THAILAND, OF COURSE THE LEAD HAS TO BE THAI, (or at the very least Thai-looking) OTHERWISE THERE IS NO REALISTIC JUSTIFICATION TO THE ENTIRE STORY.

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Ahhh it sounds like we have a Teddy fan. Just as you are privy to your own opinions about Mr. Rhodes’ mellifluous baritone, so is Byron to his own opinions, yes Byron is a critic and we don’t always agree with critics but he is very knowledgeable about theatre. And do you think you can you leave it up to an actual  Thai performer to decide whether they would accept the role or not based on their own merits and values? Cheers.

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No, Teddy does not look Thai enough. He is not Thai. He is just white. Therefore it is wrong he be cast in the role OF A THAI. In case I haven’t made myself clear enough, Teddy can appear Scottish, French, English, Irish, German, Italian, with a bit of creativity he even makes a passable Walter White but he DOES NOT LOOK THAI. You obviously haven’t read the first paragraph of this article properly. Where on earth did you draw conclusions about the production making it to Thailand when it’s distinctly mentioned that it will be an Australian one? Yul Brynner portrayed this role in the 1950s, this article questions Teddy’s casting in a 21st century production. It questions whether in 2013, how we still cannot find a single Thai performer and instead opt for a white performer with ‘mass appeal’. Ditto for the role of Mrs Anna. Teddy’s casting guarantees bums on seats, it’s not about staying true to the story. And lastly, your stupidity of confusing race and height, as if they are actually comparable, just makes you sound stupid, and frankly, it makes me fucking mad.

Byron, keep fighting the good fight. Part II coming soon.

When is Teddy Tahu not a Thai?

Stumbled across Byron Bache’s article about Teddy Tahu being cast as the King of Siam in an Australian production of The King and I here are some great points I think Byron has made in the article:

‘Colour-blind casting is not employing Caucasians to play Asian roles, it’s disregarding race when it’s irrelevant to the story.’

‘Despite its alleged race-blind casting policies, Opera Australia considered ethnicity to be relevant in the casting of the chorus. The audition notice for the show called for dancers “of any Asian ethnicity”’

‘The lesser principal roles also went to Asian performers, with Chinese-born Australian opera singer Shu-Cheen Yu playing Lady Thiang and Adrian Li Donni cast as Lun Tha.’

Additionally, there is a similar sentiment amongst the majority of comments, that firstly, there is no feasible reason as to why a Thai opera singer would accept the King of Siam role. Simply because these individuals straight-up assume that there is not a single opera singer of Thai or Asian IN THE ENTIRE WORLD that wouldn’t be offended by this role and secondly, The King and I is banned and has been banned from ever being produced in Thailand, hence, no Thai would consider this part. What a load of balls.

If you scroll down, you’ll see that some of the comments are idiotic and downright bigoted. Unfortunately, since Crikey doesn’t allow direct responses (at least not to my knowledge) I’m going to publish a blog post with my responses to some of the comments.

Ciao for now,

Kelly