🎭 Kim’s Convenience
📍Park Theatre
🎟️ PR invite

“There’s humour and heart in every aisle”

The story

Written by Ins Choi, Kim’s Convenience revolves around Korean-Canadian family, The Kims, who run a convenience store in Toronto. Based on Choi’s experiences growing up, the play offers a hilarious yet heartwarming insight into the experiences of immigrant families navigating life in a new country.

Choi plays the lead role, Appa, the stubborn and often blunt patriarch of the family. When Mr Lee informs Appa on the recent regeneration in the area, Lee suggests Appa sells the store. The conversation prompts Appa to talk to his photographer daughter, Janet, about taking over the family store, despite her lack of interest. The play also touches upon the strained relationship between Appa and estranged son, Jung. At just 80 minutes long, Kim’s Convenience highlights the struggles when bridging generational and cultural gaps. The show focuses on family dynamics, with the characters partaking in intense discussions about their hopes and dreams, further highlighting the cultural differences within the Kim family.

Photo by Marc Douet

My thoughts

Upon arrival at the Park200, it’s Mona Camille’s striking set design that instantly catches our eyes. The vibrancy and fantastic attention to detail provide a familiarity with all the local convenience stores we’ve entered.  In later scenes, Jonathan Chan’s soft lighting transports us to another significant place for the family, with religious symbols dimly lit in the background. 

Esther Jun’s direction strikes a good balance between the humorous and serious scenes. This allows the audience to fully understand the characters and see a vulnerable side to them, beneath their wit and humour. The second half showcases sincere moments between the family members, revealing their true dreams and hopes for one another. 

Photo by Marc Douet

There are strong performances from the cast of five – Janet (Jennifer Kim), Jung (Brian Law), Alex (performed by Miles Mitchell who does some impressive multi-role playing!) and Umma, played by Namju Go. Umma quietly graced the stage and only spoke to Appa in Korean. I would have loved to have seen more of Umma on stage and further exploration into her character. Particularly as we saw she had a stronger relationship with their son, Jung. Ins Choi completes the cast, playing Appa, with a fantastic stage presence and hilarious comic delivery.

As the play goes on, it was nice to see Appa’s stoic exterior melt away, albeit briefly, during conversations with his children. Choi’s characterisation of Appa shows he is a hard-working father with a big heart. There is a flashback scene that is succinct but significant enough to reveal Appa and Umma’s sacrifices when they first moved to Canada. Choi’s writing skilfully acknowledges the challenges of adjusting to new ways of life and values. As a child of immigrant parents, these scenes felt incredibly relatable! 

Photo by Marc Douet

 First staged at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2011, this play won many plaudits for its East Asian representation and went on to become adapted into a successful five-season TV series. Described as a love letter to first-generation immigrant parents, Kim’s Convenience is a joy to watch. I am always glad to see authentic representation on theatre stages. The show is embedded with Korean culture, packed with hilarity, and makes a heartwarming family story. 

Kim’s Convenience is playing at Park Theatre until Saturday 10 February 2024. You can buy tickets here