Comedian Kate Hanley Corley described the character as a "dairy farmer who becomes the world’s first foreign geisha”

The Guardian reports that comedian Kate Hanley Corley has pulled her show ‘Aisha the Aussie Geisha’ from the Melbourne Fringe Festival following “yellowface” accusations.

Corley described her show as “a cross-cultural love story about a Koo Wee Rup dairy farmer who becomes the world’s first foreign geisha”.

A picture of Corley dressed up in geisha-style makeup and clothing was featured in the show’s listing. “Aisha the Aussie Geisha’s emotional journey is told with original songs including Hot Tub Geisha, Aisha, You’ll Never Make a Geisha and I Wanna Haiku With You,” the listing said.

Liminal Magazine published an open letter to the Melbourne Fringe Festival calling for the show to be pulled. “We are dismayed, alarmed, concerned and disturbed to note one of the programmed works at the 2019 Melbourne Fringe, “Aisha the Aussie Geisha” by Kate Hanley Corley,” the letter said.

“From the initial information and visuals communicated to audiences, this performance centres on a stereotyped depiction of orientalist fantasy that borders on yellowface,” it continued. “From deeper research, including a 2014 review of this same show from “Entertainment Geelong,” we can confirm that this performance revolves around the belittling and insulting depiction of Asian peoples for cheap humour.”

The letter garnered over 70 signatures from artists, writers and performers.

In response, the festival issued a statement saying Corley had come to a “mutual decision” with the festival and has withdrawn her show.

“Melbourne fringe strives to be an inclusive place for everyone and acknowledges that this commitment to freedom of artistic expression sometimes comes into conflict with this. We recognise in this instance the balance wasn’t right,” the festival said.

On Facebook, Corley said the backlash from the show had “upset me greatly as I have many Japanese friends who supported the first iteration of the show, along with it being well received by audiences without any accusations of racism”.

“I never envisaged this would cause distress to anyone as this is the last thing I would ever want to do,” she continued in the now deleted post.

The fringe festival opens in Melbourne on 12 September.

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