Hsiao-Ling Tang (front), Courtney Stewart and Michelle Law (centre) Photo by: Stephan Henry. Deanne Scott's after-show shots follow the review.
Single, Asian, Female
By Michelle Law
Directed by Claire Christian
La Boite Theatre Company
Season: 16 February - 9 March. Duration: two hours plus interval. Bookings: 07 3007 8600 or www.laboite.com
The second time around this is a tighter, funnier and a more entertaining than the original production. I did not check my watch once during the performance. I also laughed a lot and was well-drawn into the tensions and drama as they emerged. In fact I had a great night out at the theatre thanks to good script and some fine acting.
The play 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. Hers was a wonderful performance.
Her daughters Zoe the eldest, has moved 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.
The play’s author, Michelle Law, stepped in to play the role of Zoe and proved she was an excellent interpreter of her own work. It is not an easy job to act in your own play. I had to do it a couple of time myself and fully understand the difficulties.
Zoe’s sister Mei, played once again by 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?”).
Once again I thoroughly enjoyed Courtney Stewart’s frustrated angry, spoiled and agro, rebellious teen. 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 out 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.
The family dynamic is at the heart of the play and hopes, fears and ghosts of the past play a huge and impressive, and often moving, part of the action.
There are three more actors in the show – Emily Burton, who is always value for money, plays Mei’s friend Katie, and Tatum Mottin as the phone clicking, blonde, image-obsessed Lana; a truly unpleasant creature who knows exactly when to stick a divisive boot in. She is 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. His was an extremely accomplished performance as a 26-year-old Tinder tracker who really is searching for love. I enjoyed his performance.
In the opening of Act Two, the scene is set three months earlier and Zoe takes us through some of her Tinder date experiences, which, thanks to some hilarious male impersonations from Emily Burton and Tatum Mottin had us all laughing loudly as we recognised the types.
The play covers a huge amount of social comment including racism, sex, abortion, family violence and the F word is thrown about quite a bit, but none of it is soap box spouting and it all fits into the broad brush strokes of the play.
Get to see it before it shoots off to Melbourne.
Cast and crew
Emily Burton chats with Eric Scott
Above: La Boite Artistic Director Todd MacDonald and right playwright Michelle Law.
Emily Burton (left) with playwright MerlynnTong