Review: RICKY SIM: COMING OUT TO DEAD PEOPLE (AN ASIAN QUEER STORY), Soho Theatre

The production ran from 22 to 24 January

By: Jan. 26, 2024
Review: RICKY SIM: COMING OUT TO DEAD PEOPLE (AN ASIAN QUEER STORY), Soho Theatre
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Review: RICKY SIM: COMING OUT TO DEAD PEOPLE (AN ASIAN QUEER STORY), Soho Theatre

“Who would’ve thought cancer could be homophobic?”

From the beginning of Ricky Sim: Coming Out to Dead People (An Asian Queer Story), you are instantly made aware that the show will be getting into some dark topics while still being amusing. Sim starts the show with a dead mum joke and compares grief to sex, setting the audience at ease and using the humour to let them know that it is okay to laugh at the story he is telling. 

As you might be able to infer from the title, Coming Out to Dead People (An Asian Queer Story) is Sim’s way of telling the story of how he came out to his mother who passed away from cancer. He had been born in Malaysia to two vegetable sellers, but his mother wanted her children to have a chance in the United States, so Sim grew up in Queens, New York. He wants to come out to his mother but, like many queer Asian people, struggles with the concept. There’s a hilarious anecdote about Sim going to a gay Asian therapist who actually has not come out to his parents and asks Sim for advice.

Sim spends time explaining a few aspects of his culture, including The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars, a Confucian work in which the importance of loyalty to family is stressed, particularly for children towards their parents. But Sim questions this, asking, “Why do I have to think about my dead ancestors?” and making a joke about Mulan. There is also a hilarious bit about “Gaysian” terms like “Rice Queen” and “Spider Bear,” as well as the fact that bottoms and tops are referred to as 0s and 1s respectively, leading to some great binary jokes. 

But, the show cannot be entirely based on sex-related humour for the whole sixty minutes. After warming the audience up and introducing himself and his story, Sim begins to go into detail on what it was like to be with his mother during her time with terminal intestinal cancer. He discusses how his mother always taught him to hide what he loved, to keep it safe and away from others, and how she began giving away the things that she had kept hidden for so long, including a beautiful pair of earrings. Sim presents a beautiful comparison of losing someone to a long-term disease to watching a kite fly away, forced to watch but unable to do anything. 

Of course, Sim is not the only one grieving at the time of his mother’s illness. His father is grieving not, only the loss of his wife, but the loss of his “straight son,” the man that he imagined Sim to be. Sim confesses that it took his father a decade to even tolerate his sexuality, which makes him wonder how his mom would have reacted if he had come out to her before her death. He questions each moment, asking himself,  “How much of the real me should I tell her?”

In one of the most heartfelt (and heartbreaking) moments in the show, Sim has a conversation with his mother shortly before her death, in which she somehow seems to know about her son’s sexuality, asking him, “Do you want to be alone?” after telling him about a lesbian couple she saw in the hospital. Your heart breaks along with Sim’s in the moment as he lets the audience sit with this conversation before moving on to the final stages of grief, which are, to him, acceptance and dim sum.

Ultimately, Ricky Sim: Coming Out to Dead People (An Asian Queer Story) is a beautifully heartbreaking show that does a wonderful job of toeing the line between grief and humour, giving Sim the chance to make the audience laugh and cry within an hour. 

Ricky Sim: Coming Out to Dead People (An Asian Queer Story) ran from 22 to 24 January at Soho Theatre.




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