‘Golden Shield’ Takes on Censorship in China

A timely new play involving sisters and tech by Anchuli Felicia King to open at the Manhattan Theatre Club

| 17 Apr 2022 | 02:06

In a country surrounded by digital censorship, the only way to break free is to challenge the status quo. But what happens when someone does?

“Golden Shield” is a play about two sisters – one is an American lawyer who bravely sues a multinational technology company and the Chinese government, and her sister is a translator whom she hires to work on the case. The title is a nod to the firewall, which shields information from reaching Chinese citizens.

Written by Anchuli Felicia King, “Golden Shield” is set to make its American debut at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Previews begin on April 26 and opening night is on May 17.

Like King’s other work – including “White Pearl,” the story of a racist ad made by a Singaporean skincare company for the eponymous cream, and the viral video and conversations on race that ensue – inspiration struck while she was reading.

“I read an article about a couple of real court cases where Chinese plaintiffs had sued American tech companies for helping the Chinese government to build what’s now known as the Great Firewall or the system of online censorship that exists in China,” she said. “I thought it was really interesting and intriguing subject matter.”

King continued this research and into the subject matter and when she had enough of a story to tell, she imbued it with emotion.

“What really unlocked this way for me and my way of dealing with how huge and heavy the subject matter can be,” she said. “Tt’s through the central devices of play – which is essentially, there’s a character on stage who’s like, the omniscient narrator, called the translator.”

Global Narrative

The translator communicates between Mandarin and English in the story, but also translates for the audience.

“[This] device really helps unlock this play and make it feel you know, theatrical and accessible to an audience,” King said.

Much of King’s work centers around a global narrative. Given King’s multi-national upbringing (“I grew up in a bunch of different countries and moved all around the world,” she said), this makes sense. She is of Thai and Australian descent.

The play first premiered in Melbourne, Australia in 2019 at the Melbourne Theatre Company.

King said the play was well received in Australia, especially among the Asian Australian community.

“It deals a lot with what it means to have different cultural relationships. If you’re part of the sort of Asian diaspora to your home country.” she said. “So I’m really excited to get to share this play with Chinese American audiences and see their relationships with the play.”