Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK, explores the theme of performance in theatre and in our every day lives, using the metaphor of bound feet and fashion. Writer/ performer and author of the book, Yang-May Ooi, explains why performance fascinates her.
Bound Feet Blues, my memoir in book form, opens at my first staged performance of the theatre version of the Bound Feet Blues story. The first chapter describes what it felt like for me to step out in front of an audience under the spotlights to perform the story of my family and my own life.
That first performance at Conway Hall described in the book was captured on video – highlights below:
Acting and Authenticity
We sometimes mistake performance or acting as inauthentic. We think that acting means pretending to be someone that we are not. Of course that is factually true when actors play a fictional role or are portraying a real person on film or in a play but even then actors always seek to be real and honest in the emotions that they depict. For me, portraying myself and my family on stage, it was deeply important to be authentic to my own story and also theirs. The emotions and story I portrayed were real and truthful within the frame of the drama.
The experience of that performance made me reflect on the performance of my self over the last few decades.
“Performing” My Life
In the book, Bound Feet Blues, I write about how I “performed” the role of a Bright Young Thing in my student days in Oxford, going to balls and dressing as a beautiful “China Doll”. Later, I “performed” the role of a high-achieving lawyer in London in the yuppy atmosphere of the ’80s. When I came out, I “performed” as a boyish lesbian in baggy chinos and lace ups. It was only after all this experimentation that I finally came to be able to express who I really am – a mix of feminine and masculine, sometimes high powered, sometimes slobby and lazy, sometimes beautifully dressed, sometimes not.
How do you “perform” different aspects of your character?
We all perform who we are to some extent. Think about how you show up at work compared to how you might be with your family. Or how you may be relaxed and mischievous with close friends but more polite with people you’ve only just met. Those different personae are not necessarily inauthentic – they are different aspects of our character.
For me in the past, the problem was that some of the personae I portrayed led me into a life I did not want. I played weak and doll-like in order to be loved – but that meant that people could not see the real me and did not have the chance to love the real me so they loved only the doll. As a gung-ho lawyer, I found myself sucked into a high-powered legal career whereas all I wanted to do was be a writer.
Being Me At Last
In Bound Feet Blues, the book, I explore how this kind of performance was an unhealthy part of my life in the past. And talk about how the performance of the theatre work, although in a staged setting, was in fact one of the most authentic things I’ve done in my life.
Yang-May will be speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival on Sat 09 April 2016. She will be talking about “Bound Feet Blues: Doing the Unimaginable” and will be mingling with the audience afterwards to chat and sign copies of her book Bound Feet Blues. Come along to what will no doubt be a fascinating event and also take this opportunity to meet her afterwards.
TO BUY BOUND FEET BLUES THE BOOK, click on the links below:
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