Review: RUMAHFest, Online

RUMAHFest, a festival celebrating Asian artists based in London, was due to launch at the Rich Mix earlier this year in March, however due to the Covid-19 pandemic it had to be postponed. Thankfully the festival has been reimagined as a digital production and is now available to stream on YouTube. 

Backed by organisations including Arts Council England, Rich Mix and Ignite Fund, RUMAHFest is a mixture of scratch performances, comedy skits and spoken word. Meaning ‘home’ in Malay, RUMAH aims to not only highlight the talent of Asian artists living in London, but to inspire people too, and RUMAHFest founder Nur Khairiyah (who also hosted) has curated an eclectic selection of pieces, from practical embroidery and cookery tutorials to improv sketches. 

The festival kicks off with an embroidery workshop from artist Nicole Chui (ThatSewNicole), who encourages viewers to create empowering imagery to represent allyship with womxn in their life – all you need is a photo or magazine print (in Chui’s case, Michelle Obama). Next up is Comediasians, the UK’s first all-Asian improv troupe dedicated to celebrating Asian performers in London. The group, featuring Bruce Tang, Tulasi Das, Kelsey Yuhara and Yiannis Cove, use a prompt from social media to conspire casual conversations, and this becomes the basis of their improv scenes. In this instance the prompt is the coolest thing about being a Londoner, and the quartet play out a sketch about a dinner party between friends over zoom.

What’s so great about RUMAHFest is the diversity of the work it showcases, and that’s more than evident in two of the scratch works presented within the show. Sexy Asians Around Ur Area, written by Camilla Anvar and Zelda Solomon, is a thought-provoking collection of stories about being young, lost and Asian-is; while Precious Cargo is a beautiful autobiographical play from Barton Williams, written and co-produced with Faizal Abdullah, about a man adopted from Vietnam and brought up in Australia as part of Operation Babylift. 

In a spoken word collaboration featuring Nush, Troy Cabida and Nazreen Mohamad where the three artists come together to produce poetry, the trio discuss how art is a form of therapy, and certainly what we all need right now., and RUMAHFest certainly fits that bill. With such a range of pieces playing over 90 minutes, RUMAHFest offers something for everyone, and showcases the wealth of talent of artists from the Asian diaspora in London, from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to the Philippines and Uzbekistan. An original and timely festival, RUMAHFest is positive and thought-provoking and is well worth a watch.

RUMAHFest is available to view on YouTube. The festival is free to view however donations are welcome, a percentage of which will go towards RICH MIX’s #SaveOurVenues campaign. For more information visit https://www.rumahkhai.com

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