Review- Golden Blood: drama, intrigue and emotional pull
By Paul Kiely
By Merlynn Tong
Directed by Tessa Leong
A Griffin Theatre Company Production
SBW Stables Theatre
13 Craigend Street
Season: 24 June – 30 July 2022. Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org
Duration: 90 minutes (no interval)
Australia. The lucky country. And through the eyes of a teenaged, orphaned girl in Singapore, it represents her dream life, her hope for a better life and an escape from the emotional shackles that the death of her mother has dealt her.
Golden Blood, although inspired by the early years of its writer Merlynn Tong, is a fictional, semi-epic tale of urban survival by two siblings, known to us simply as Girl (Merlynn Tong) and Boy (Charles Wu).
We first see Girl aged fourteen, just after the funeral of her mother. Her brother Boy is twenty-one and vows to take care of her, as their father also passed away many years ago.
Boy is a Singaporean gang member, a big-noter and would-be gangster. He has seen his mothers’ Will and is able to take on a guardianship role in order to protect his sister’s substantial inheritance until she comes of age.
His valued possession is the parang, a nasty-looking and intimidating machete which he gleefully demonstrates with dexterity.
In contrast, Girl clings onto her cuddly toy koala. Like a security blanket, she draws hope to one day become a Vet in Australia and “look after all the marsupials.”
Siblings could not be more different. Raised in a family that glorifies the accumulation of material goods, their views on life and the pursuit of happiness are worlds apart.
Their Chinese heritage has also instilled deep views on the afterlife as well. Offerings to the spirits can include burning money in the hope of better fortunes here on earth.
Over the course of the next seven years, their lives descend into some dark areas. All the ‘abuses’ turn up to test their strengths: alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling and financial. The answers to their problems eventually become evident as they mature, but not until they learn the meaning of traditional values such as family, thrift and self-control. Their wisdom needs to develop soon because there is one big secret about to blow their relationship as brother and sister.
Merlynn Tong is a great storyteller. Golden Blood has the drama, intrigue and emotional pull to keep audience interest for the whole ninety minutes. There is always a new angle or sub-plot that emerges and provides twists where we were not expecting any. And empathy is created by the carefully placed moments of humour.
Merlynn is also a wonderful actor in her role as Girl. She is just as convincing as a frightened and lost 14 year old as she is as the mature and worldly 35 year old.
Playing the character of Boy is Charles Wu. He has full command of this role from start to finish and struts about the stage with confidence and vigour. As his character is convinced that love comes from status, money and power, Charles combines voice, body language and gestures to demonstrate his internal struggle with what he knows is really right. That is, to be completely honest with his sister.
The theatrics of the play are well-handled by Director Tessa Leong. With a small stage area, Tessa’s creative crew do wonders with lighting, sound, costumes, props and..…. sulphur!
Golden Blood is at the SBW Stables Theatre until 30 July 2022. An exciting, fast-paced play; never a dull moment.