Behind the scenes with Haley Yiu

We interviewed the cast and crew of Another Life to offer a sneak peek into the characters, the writing process and more.

Haley Yiu is part of the writing team with Yanni Ng and plays Joey Yang. Joey was born in the UK and is unsure of where they fit in.

Where did the idea for Another Life come from?

We wanted to create a show that could provide a glimpse into the life of East Asians in the UK, so we decided to conduct a survey to help inspire us and to better understand those struggles and experiences.

The results showed a range of experiences based on the varying ages and backgrounds, so we created multiple characters who could properly represent them. We soon realised that the characters had such unique perspectives that they each deserved their own time in the spotlight, which is why we ended up creating vignettes instead.

What was your writing process like?

I’m quite methodical when it comes to my writing process. I started off by doing some research online and going through the survey results. This was to help me better understand the characters I would be writing, especially since the specific characters I wrote were quite different from myself in both experience and background.

While I looked through those surveys, I would note down any quotes I wanted to include in the show as they helped me hone in on the themes and character traits I wanted to include. Afterwards, I would focus on the structure of the story to best portray the characters on stage. Finally, I would begin to write and edit through the work until completion.

What are the challenges of writing and directing a verbatim-inspired play?

There were quite a few challenges that came up when we were writing. The main one being that we knew the weight the show carried in having to accurately represent these people who entrusted us with their stories.

We spent a lot of time trying to capture the essence of the characters because we wanted the audience to see them as real people who they could relate to.

But this also resulted in another issue, which was separating them from the source material. We wanted the characters to be inspired by, rather than be the same as, the actual source. So, it was a very fine line of creativity and truth that we had to find while we were writing the piece.

Tell us a bit about the characters?

Lo is a man in his late 60s looking back on his life. Deciding to share his wisdom, Lo shows us a glimpse of his life as an East Asian who has lived in the UK for almost 50 years. We see the expectations and realities that come with living here, and sometimes, even the cost.

Vivian is a second-generation British East Asian mother who is struggling to raise her mixed children. We see her understand the importance of finding a balance between two different cultures and how it can link the past with the present.

Who would you like to see in the audience and what would you like them to take away from the experience (without revealing any spoilers!)?

I would love to see East Asians who recently moved to the UK in the audience.

We have such a wide range of themes and experiences from all the different characters that I hope we can provide others with insight and maybe even a sense of hope that they are not alone in their experience.

What do you find most exciting about this play?

I’d have to say I find the multi-roling the most exciting. Since they’re vignettes, there are lots of different characters we have to play to help develop the story of each of the protagonists. We go from one character to their complete opposite within seconds. It’s an amazing challenge to have as an actor, as it tests not only our abilities but also our imaginations.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself?

Although my name is spelt a bit differently, I was named after a character in The Parent Trap (1998).

What should people who enjoyed this play and are interested in Chinese culture see next? Any plays or films you would recommend?

I would suggest reading Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok. It’s a gorgeous play based on the real-life story of Lily Kwok who opened up the first Chinese restaurant in Manchester. It explores how food can connect different generations of family as well as provide insight into our culture and heritage.