Stage & Screen

Dear Younger Self... Actor Daniel York Loh

Actor Daniel York Loh is gracing the West End stage this summer alongside Mark Rylance in the critically acclaimed play, Dr Semmelweis. He looks back on the experiences that brought him here in a letter to his younger self.
The full company of Dr Semmelweis, with Daniel York Loh in the centre of the bottom row. Photo: Simon Annand.
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Dear Younger Self... Actor Daniel York Loh

Dear Daniel,

You’re a mixed-up mixed-race mixed-face kid from the wrong side of the tracks with a hole in your soul and a hole in your arm

At school you were picked on and kicked on and spit on because you just didn’t fit no matter what you did so they’d medicate you to fake calm

They locked you in locked you out locked your existence up in doubt till you’re all washed up washed out barely past your teens

You could chuck it in right here right now

Sit down on the stool and throw in the towel

But you have this dream to strut your stuff and howl your truth and blaze and burn and daze and discern and live and learn and ignite on a stage that can sate your ruth and hold your rage

And it seems like a sure thing

That place of performance that presents as a space that is safe

For agitators

Dismantlers and mischief-makers

Movers and shakers

True believers and truth-seekers

For poets and provokers and players of poker holding pocket aces and multiple races

And singers of songs and righters of wrong who never really belong and dance away from the throng

A space that is safe

For debate or dissent

For depression or intent

That illuminates and advocates and coruscates but tolerates and cultivates while it liberates and elevates and reverberates with zest and zeal and

A Promise of the Real that can heal and unpeel and unseal your lonesome spiel

But you have to know they will often and repeatedly and seemingly endlessly say

You’re not clever enough or ever enough

Or Chinese enough or Korean enough or Japanese enough or Vietnamese enough or period-piece enough or Anglo-Saxon enough or decimal fraction enough that their world is not unified with your hybrid stain in the corner of the frame that fucks up their game and fries their brain that implies your pain because some of those people have never felt pain and they actually envy and covet and yearn for yours and that envy leaves them sore and mad and distorted and contorted with a sense of feeling thwarted and bereft and unsorted and repressed

So all they can do is reject you from the box where you just never fit

And eject you on the rocks where they hope that you’ll quit

And when you try and write a story they’ll want it tame and careful but not full of care and definitely not rare but generic and ‘representative’ not really chimeric and really very tentative and certainly not argumentative

They want to keep you in your place and lock you in a case

They want to cast you as the villain in their own simplistic drama

Be a plaster they can balm on their broke bleeding karma

And downsize and dismiss and despise and demystify you in their leaden saga but

You’ll always be a Mystery to Them

So shine on you crazy diamond

And when they dictate then you just defy
Climb on the roof and your freak flag fly
If they want to stop you they’ll need to buy a gun
And they’ll have to aim at your zig-zag run
You were put in this world to duck and to dive
You were made in adversity but you were made to thrive
And you’ll find your tribe and you’ll know how to move
Because no community organiser can match our groove

They can pay for their baubles but they’ll just never prove

A performative cipher can ever hold truth

Because this is your thing it was made in your style
It was forged in the flames of your sense of exile
It glitters and gleams in magnificent impurity
It has its fine line and its own morality
It dances and sings with the voice of the outcast
It ties its colours to the top of the mast
It bangs its drum in wild rhythm and rhyme
It sounds all wrong but all right at the same time
It’s all the hope in isolation anyone could long for
Mighty in spirit with its dragon roar
It’s the rebel song that won’t be turned down
It’s the light on the path from the dark side of town
Hold fast to your Dao it’ll show you the way
We’re all heading home at the end of the day

With love & respect

Your older (but not necessarily wiser) future self x

Daniel York Loh. Courtesy of the actor.
Dr Semmelweis runs this summer. Tickets can be found here. Daniel York Loh can be found on Instagram and Twitter.
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