Benjamin Yeoh : biography
Benjamin Yeoh (born 1978) aka Ben Yeoh is one of the first British Chinese playwrights to have his plays performed and recognised in the UK.
Born near London, England his father came from Ipoh, Malaysia and mother from Singapore. His grandfather, Datuk Yeoh Cheang Lee was the first non-European chairman of the Perak Turf Club , in Ipoh, Malaysia. Yeoh won a scholarship to Westminster School and went on to study Natural Sciences at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, the same college as his father and grand father. He then went on to Harvard University as a Herchel Smith scholar studying dramaturgy and play writing.
Yeoh is also among the first generation of writers to have come from the Soho Theatre Young Writers’ Programme. He has also been on the Royal Court Theatre’s writers’ programme led in 2005 by playwright Jane Bodie.
Yeoh has directed several plays and has been involved with writing groups and mentorships such as Royal Court Writers, Soho Young Writers, BBC Radio, Moti Roti, Talawa and Yellow Ink. He currently sits on the board of Talawa and advises CIS Sustainable Leaders Trust on socially responsible investment. He won the Thomson Extel Award for Best Sector Sell-side Analyst for Integrated Socially Responsible Investment Analysis in 2003
Lemon Love (2001)
His first play, Lemon Love, was performed by Louie Bayliss and Salima Saxton at the Finborough Theatre, London (2001). Lemon Love is a revenge love story that involved a mystical older couple guiding and berating a younger couple in their stormy relationship. Directed by Elizabeth Freestone.
Lost in Peru (2003)
Lost in Peru, was his second full length piece, first performed at the Camden People’s Theatre, London (2003). It was Arts Council of England funded.
The play dealt with torture and interwove personal tragedies with those on a larger scale particularly ‘the disappeared’ in Latin America. The UK newspaper, the Guardian suggested that it ‘pushed the boundaries of form and style’ but also noted that it was a difficult play.
Yellow Gentlemen (2006)
A reading of his third play called Yellow Men, at the time (2004), was performed at the Soho Theatre and was produced by Yellow Earth Theatre. It also received Arts Council funding.
Yellow Men was renamed Yellow Gentlemen and performed at the Oval House Theatre in February – March, 2006. Time Out applauded "…the vertiginous sense of possibility and regret present in Yeoh’s intelligent script."
Patent Breaking Life Saving (2006)
Patent Breaking Life Saving, directed by Jessica Dromgoole was broadcast by BBC World Service in December 2006. It starred Danny Sapani and Tanya Moodie. The play was bout an African President who hits his head and starts giving out medicines for free.
The Places In Between (2007) (adaptation)
The Places in Between, a dramatisation of the book by Rory Stewart, directed by Kirsty Williams and starring Greg Wise was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 15 February 2007. The story is about Rory Stewart, who walks across Afghanistan just after the fall of the Taliban.
Nakamitsu won the international Gate Theatre Translation Award and was performed 24 May – 16 June 2007. It is a version of a Japanese Noh play.
The UK newspaper, the Guardian said of Nakamitsu: ‘Small but exquisitely formed, Benjamin Yeoh’s new version of a 14th-century Japanese Noh play is fusion theatre, borrowing from east as well as west. It is both strange and familiar, accessible and remote, restrained and yet somehow full-blown.’
- Yeoh has also had work on BBC Radio 3 (The Inventor of Fireworks performed by David Yip on 22 January 2004) and several readings of other works.