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Theater Review: “You for Me for You”, Starring Katie Leung

Fresh from her year as one of BAFTA’s Breakthrough Brits, Katie Leung takes to the stage in the UK premiere of You for Me for You by Mia Chung at the Royal Court Theatre.

North Korean sisters Minhee and Junhee are struggling to survive. Food is scarce, money is limited, and healthcare is negligent. As Minhee’s health deteriorates, Junhee makes the decision that they must flee the Best Nation in the World – but they are torn apart at the border.

Separated, the sisters make their own ways into the very different worlds. As Minhee battles the baffling bureaucracies of North Korea, Jinhee finds herself equally lost as an immigrant in the USA. Their worlds are juxtaposed against one another as the sisters fight to survive and find their sense of self in the absence and abundance of choice.

For such heavy subject matter, the production is lively and thoroughly engaging. The surrealness of the script is confidently realized by director Richard Twyman and designer Jon Bausor, who make superb use of the small space with a multi-functioning mirrored set, while the small cast helps maintain this heightened world.

In the role of Junhee, Leung excels. Her sister may call her stubborn, but through Leung’s portrayal, we see a bold, intelligent, young woman, unashamed to seek something more, want something different to what she has been born into. And above all, she is likable, a combination of characteristics all too absent in female characters on the stage.

You for Me for You stages narratives rarely seen on the British stage – the difficulties of immigrant life, true female independence, a snapshot of the world’s most insular country – and provides an opportunity for one of the more low key Potter alumni to shine.

You for Me tor You runs at the Royal Court until January 9. The production is now sold out, but returns may still be available.