Korean Canadian Friend by Lunar Way Studio is part of the Primetime series in the 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival. Stylized like a Korean variety show, this performance explores the lives of two Korean immigrant boys as they navigate the perilous world of Canadian high school.
In this live Zoom call performance, the show is hosted by MC 1 (Paul Smith) and MC 2 (Rosina Ferede) and features ‘contestants’ Eric (Tony Yu), a grade 11 high school student who immigrated to Canada five years prior and Changmin (Daniel Lee), a grade 10 student and a very recent immigrant still learning English and figuring his way around this foreign new world.
Unfortunately, as far as Eric is concerned, everything about Changmin is WRONG. If Changmin wants to not only make friends in Canada, but to survive, everything about him has to change, from his clothes to his food choices, his speech, and even his name. Eric has chosen the name ‘Chris’ for him.
In a series of quiz show challenges and tests, Changmin/Chris is put to the test as lead by Eric. The poor guy does not do very well.
Korean Canadian Friend is written by Ngọc Hân (Rebecca) Trần and directed by Ganesh Thava. It speaks to the challenges faced by every Canadian immigrant that arrived as a child or teen and had to navigate the school system here. In particular, this performance highlights the struggles often faced by many Asian Canadians who are often taught from their culture to their parents that the best way to survive a new home is to keep your head down, conform, and don’t ‘rock the boat’, just move with the crowd. With the recent uptick of anti-Asian hate crimes, and general pandemic-generated racism towards Asians, this performance is timely and relevant.
Despite a few technical hiccups as can be expected with a live Zoom performance, My
Korean Canadian Friend is overall a very well put together show. There are great moments of humor, frustration, anger, and resolution throughout.
Yu and Lee are great as Eric and Changmin. As frustrating as it is watching Yu as Eric push Changmin to change himself and conform, you realize that he likely had to fight his way through a very similar situation when he first immigrated and probably without someone guiding him along. He’s trying to save Changmin from the same fate.
Lee is endearing as Changmin, his struggle of wanting to fit in but without giving up his Korean identity is touching and the rap he learned when he had to show off his knowledge of English slang is hilarious.
Smith and Ferede as MC 1 and MC 2 both do spot on job acting as moderators and often fuel for Eric and Changmin, either supporting Eric or defending Changmin. Ferede plays a second role of a fellow immigrant student who befriends Changmin. Their interaction where Changmin is simply himself and they both learn about cultural dishes from their home countries is a heartwarming moment.
Korean Canadian Friend is a highlight during this year’s Fringe Festival and definitely worth exploring whether or not you identify as a person of colour. Better yet, this is well worth the watch in particular if you are not, as a way of understanding the struggles of most immigrants.
KoreanCanadian Friend is playing as part of the Primetime offerings at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
- Remaining showtimes are 28th July at 8:00pm and 31st July at
2:00pm. Tickets can be purchased here. Please note that an on-demand Fringe pass will not work for this show.
- Accessibility notes:
- On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
- Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
- Content Warning: This performance contains discussion of racism and coarse language. Viewer discretion is advised.
Graphic by Ivan Yu, provided by the company