Single Asian Female plunks the audience in the middle of the lives of the women of the Wong family – and quite literally in the middle of their restaurant, The Golden Phoenix, on the Sunshine Coast.
From the moment the audience entered the theatre, it was clear that The Golden Phoenix could easily have been any Chinese restaurant in any suburban neighbourhood in Australia, from the red lanterns, glowing signage and family-sized tables, to the 90s-soundtrack dragging up joyful nostalgia of days gone by.
Make no mistakes though; in between these eerily familiar tables the lives of three soon-to-be-classic Aussie characters, the creation of writer Michelle Law, came to life in all their glorious complexity – each written and performed beautifully, their stories intertwining in one of the most powerful new plays that I hope has a long-lasting life after this production.
Pearl Wong is proudly the Wong family matriarch, played by the hilarious and heart-breaking Hsiao-Ling Tang. The perception of the ‘Asian mother’, a concept brought to life within Michelle's other works, is continued here, as is the concept of the ‘divorced woman’. The overbearing, overworked and newly single powerhouse that is Pearl Wong struggles to connect with her daughters, and reclaim her identity. Pearl, in a not entirely-unique but nonetheless important journey, has moved from daughter to wife to mother. With her husband out of the picture, her two daughters growing up in a culture removed from her own, and other external pressures bearing down, it is Pearl’s story, so very wonderfully performed by Hsiao-Ling that provides the backbone and urgency to the play.
Both Alex Lee as Zoe Wong, and Courtney Stewart as Mei, perform with wonderful comedic timing, and an openness to both the high and seemingly-high stakes that life (and a good playwright and director) throws at them. The supporting ensemble, Emily Burton as Mei’s best friend Katie, Emily Vascotto as popular girl Lana and Patrice Jhanur as Paul, all held their own against the three phenomenal actors, with each character having at least one moment in a spotlight of their own.
Director Claire Christian has taken Michelle’s script and created something of a masterpiece – a production that is genuinely funny, genuinely moving, and genuinely though-provoking. Quite simply, Claire has directed a production that is fierce. Single Asian Female, with its laughs and moments of lightness is at its heart, a rally and reminder that fierceness has a place in today’s world, and we as an audience need to find it and wear it with courage.
Fierce love for a family. A fierce fight for independence. A fierce grip on everything you’ve had to fight for. And perhaps most importantly, Single Asian Female puts humanity fiercely back into the centre of some of loudest battles we’re facing as a nation, battles that so quickly and dangerously fall into rhetoric – battles of diversity, gender equality, self-identity.
A wonderful evening was only brought down by hindered sight lines – an easy fix for any future productions, but unfortunate this time around that so many moments were missed from certain vantage points within the current seating arrangement. The seating does however provide opportunity for a more immersive experience for audience members wanting a more intimate experience by taking a seat at a table in the restaurant – these ones might truly be the best seats in the house to capture the action.
It is my sincerest wish that Michelle Law continues to write for the stage – her writings across other mediums are wonderful, but watching this production has highlighted how crucial – and powerful – live productions that authentically reflect and intelligently interrogate the current cultural and political landscape of contemporary Australia actually are.
This might be the most important show you’ll see all year, but I do encourage every-one to go out, see this production, make up your own mind and tell others what you thought.
La Boite Theatre Company presents
SINGLE ASIAN FEMALE
by Michelle Law
Director Claire Christian
Venue: La Boite at the Roundhouse Theatre | The Works Level 5, 6-8 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove Village, QLD
Dates: 11 Feb – 4 Mar 2017
Tickets: $30 – $60