Hello Kitty Must Die - Edinburgh Fringe Festival (UK)
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Pleasance Courtyard - Pleasance Two
Aug 14, 16-21, 23-27
Suitability: 16+ (Guideline)
Country: United States
Warnings and additional info: This show contains strong language.
- Deliciously dark and slick, this challenges what a Fringe Festival show can be -
Based on the cult novel of the same name by Angela S Choi (now Kate Kamen), Hello Kitty Must Die is explosively dark, incredibly slick and superbly performed for a premiere Fringe show. From the Tony-winning producer of Six the Musical, audiences are led through the dark story of Fiona Yu (Sami Ma) as she fights her way through being a disillusioned Chinese-American woman within a patriarchal society. The “Hello Kitty” stereotype is well and truly dead in her eyes and she’s ready to do anything to make it stay that way.
Co-adapted by Gail Rastorfer and Kurt Johns, there is an air of SIX to the show. Opening with the performers, all of east Asian heritage, belting out the title song ‘Hello Kitty Must Die’ (which is still stuck in my head) the darkly toned and punk pop musical score is thrown at the audience. Aided by the five strong cast, Jully Lee, Lennox T Duong, Amy Keum and Annu Hu join Sami Ma to play multiple roles ranging from overbearing parents, to douchebag bosses and bitchy socialites.
Cast of Hello Kitty Must Die at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Photos: Joseph Barbin
Cecilia Lin’s music may not be entirely memorable outside of the title song, but each one holds richly-dark humour within. There is a mix of ambitions in the story being told, it’s both a revenge crime thriller, and a bildungsroman tale highlighting a smashing of the patriarchy and white society in an American-Chinese world. Whilst incredibly well-rehearsed, the story needs a bit of ironing out in order to find the central style it wants to have. Nonetheless, it’s incredibly compelling.
Intent on rejecting her family’s strict expectations of her, Fiona is bold, brash and unforgiving. Ma plays Fiona with impressive intensity, backed by strong vocals and professional timing, she makes the production feel like it’s on a London stage instead of a Fringe studio. After reuniting with an old school friend, Sean (Lennox T. Duong), Fiona is drawn back into Sean’s dark ways of handling bullies in life - mostly with violence and hitting them in the head with a lunchbox full of rocks. Thus starting a chain of events of accidental deaths that clear the path for success in Fiona’s life. It’s all very Heathers and utterly delicious.
Duong’s Sean is darkly seductive, with a murderous stare and curled lip throughout. Keum takes on multiple roles with finesse and flair, drawing the audience’s eye to her continuously. Lee and Hu add to the humour of the show in their portrayals of multiple characters and caricatures.
You’ll never look at that speechless cartoon cat the same way again.
With an alluring name to it, Hello Kitty Must Die has layers within, with an abundance of potential to go beyond the Fringe Festival. It’s all an incredibly slick production with some standout performances. Lean into the dark themes and adult humour and leave with that title song stuck in your head. You’ll never look at that speechless cartoon cat the same way again.
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