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Review - Single, Asian, Female: Debut play well worth watching

Emily Burton, Courtney Stewart and Emily Vascotto. Photograph: Dylan Evans

Single, Asian, Female

By Michelle Law

Directed by Claire Christian

La Boite Theatre Company

The Roundhouse

Kelvin Grove


Season: 11 February - 4 March. Bookings: 07 3007 8600 or

A new play by a debut writer is always something worth seeing and Single Asian Female is no exception. Michelle Law’s opus contains some brilliant dialogue and characters you come to love, even with their flaws. They are truly people many of us can say “I know her – and her mum!” It is however over-written and went on for a little too long. It started at 7.40 and the final karaoke finale ended at 10.15, so it lost me a few times.

In between the few boring bits, it contained audience-silencing drama, lots of laughs and performances from talented actors, whose efforts won a standing ovation from much of the packed house.

The play, which is more episodic than plotline, follows a family of three Asian women who happen to be single who run and live in a Chinese Restaurant, The Golden Phoenix in Nambour on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Pearl (Hsiao-Liang Tang), is a single mum who has just finalised her divorce.

Her daughters Zoe (Alex Lee) the eldest, has had to move back to Nambour after the loss of her apartment in Brisbane. She is coping with men, sex, fears of falling pregnant and life as an artist. Mei (Courtney Stewart), is Aussie born and in her last year of high school, dealing with bullying, peer pressure inadvertent racism, (“where are you from?” “I was born in Nambour.” “But where were you first?”).

To me Courtney Stewart’s frustrated angry, spoiled and agro, rebellious teen was the stand out by a shade in a talented cast. I actually did know the girl! Her performance was faultless and she raged, cried and shrunk into misery with ease.

The show opened in a Chinese restaurant, complete with tables, occupied by members of the audience, and red lanterns. Pearl told us about life as a single mum, the advice from Chinese relatives, the problems with her ex-husband and the broke into a karaoke version of I Will Survive, It was a great opening to the show and it set the scene for the fun to come. ,

We first see Mei as she casts put her her “Asian” possessions; her Hello Kitty pyjama pants, a pink puffy jacket, jelly shoes and a huge head mask. She is sick of being Asian and just wants to fit in

There are three more actors in the show – Emily Burton who plays Mei’s friend Katie, Emily Vascotto who plays the phone clicking, red-headed, image-obsessed Lana - once again a character very familiar to many parents.

Patrick Jhanur is Paul, the token male; he is one of Zoe’s one-night stands who is also an immigration lawyer, which comes in handy later in the piece.

In the opening of Act Two, the scene is set three months earlier and Zoe takes us, thanks to some hilarious male impersonations from Emily Burton and Emily Vascotto, gtoo the audience through a few of her disastrous early dates. It was funny, but I don’t think it would have been missed it were cut. Like the other pieces I thought superfluous it was a “tell the audience” rather than a dramatic reveal.

The play covers a huge amount of social comment from, racism, sex, abortion, family violence and the F word is thrown about quite a bit, but little of it is soap box spouting and it all fits into the broad brush strokes of the play.

It made for a mainly enjoyable but sometimes gruelling night in the Round House.

A word of warning: La Boite is “going green”. On opening night programs were few and far between. “The program is on line,” I was told by the company, “We won’t be doing mass printings of programs anymore.”

For me this is a big mistake, so many patrons like to spend the time between arriving and going into the theatre reading the program and keeping it as a souvenir of the night – and even if it is on line, it doesn’t, make it very green if the patron has to print it out! On top of that online programs can’t be checked during a show: phones are all turned off!

Bring back the program.

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