I had no prior knowledge of Chris Grace’s work prior to this show, but I’ve always been interested in the acute skewering of race and class due to my own upbringing. One thing I’m not, however, is a person of colour.
As a white person, I want to do better in confronting my own hidden prejudices but at the same time be entertained, not preached at, yeah?
This is something that, I suspect, Chris Grace understands all too well. As a Chinese, insanely young-looking 50-year-old gay male, he’s been subject to the same hideous stereotypes and platitudes of the Western World as I have, but I’ve, for the most part, absorbed them with all the happy ignorance that white privilege brings.
Studio 5 in Assembly George Square is absolutely tiny, but Chris is on stage from the moment the audience starts filing in. He chats to us, perfectly at ease, knowing that he has the upper hand and this is his space.
And we’re off.
No wait, he tells us, the show hasn’t started yet and as such we mustn’t judge. He’s not here to do a hit job on SJ, far from it, he’s a huge fan, and such a compelling character that SJ herself wants to imitate his style and tell the story of his upbringing and subsequent rise to, if not quite fame, then a well-deserved place on the American Improv Circuit.
So, with the inventive and genuinely funny use of some wigs and faithful-to-the-original costumes, it’s Chris Grace as Scarlett Johansson as Chris Grace. No, wait, it’s Chris Grace as Scarlett Johansson as Chris Grace as Scarlett Johansson.
It’s about as meta as you get, and while you laugh as he describes himself as “Chinese, gay and fat” while wearing a skin-tight Black Widow costume, the message is clear. If Scarlett Johansson can play a Japanese character, for sure he can also play the role of Johansson herself.
What to expect
The show pivots around Johansson’s contentious role in Ghost In The Shell with Johansson stating that her character was without race, which was absolutely fine, he says because nothing about the film signposts it as being Asian; not the source material (manga), or setting (Japan), or the numerous uncredited Asians in the background…
Using his deadpan delivery to highlight these makes us wince even more. He’s fully aware he has a captive audience of well-intentioned white people, and he’s gonna make us laugh until we realise that nothing about racism is funny anymore.
However, given the breadth of Chris Grace’s talent and energy, and his capacity for illuminating the dark and murky prejudices that most of us aren’t even aware of, that day is a long way off.
What are the answers? There aren’t any but while Chris uses intelligence, wit and pin-sharp observation to interrogate the thorny issues of race, identity and whitewashing, this reviewer is happy to follow his lead and give them some serious thought.
I really enjoyed watching Chris Grace: as Scarlett Johansson. The pace and humour are gentle throughout, though some may be confused by a depiction of a near-breakdown, it’s pretty clear it’s all part of the show, and it made me think. Highly recommended.
Chris Grace as Scarlett Johansson
Written by Deborah Murray
Author bio: Often found rescuing bees from pavements, the pinnacle of her ambition is doing the bus stop announcements on Lothian Buses, but for now she can be heard as the Announcer for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (yes, really). Proudly autistic.