Proudly Asian Theatre: Orientation

Love and sexuality are complicated enough to navigate without adding race in to the mix. Orientation is a bold new work by Proudly Asian Theatre that explores what it means to be Asian in Aotearoa, dissecting in particular common stereotypes associated with sex and relationships.

Mei, the central character of the story, finds herself battling an identity crisis being half Pākehā and half Chinese yet only having dated white men. Enlisting the help of the ‘Asian Everyman’, she goes on a quest – to “root herself back to her roots”. As she speed dates her way through various suitors, we are given a superficial representation of “Asianess” which will no doubt speak to and resonate more to those of Asian descent in the crowd.

This audacious way of self discovery is certainly unorthodox but paves the way to the bigger subject matter at hand – the racism and social conditioning that is deeply ingrained into the fabric of New Zealand society. From dumplings and that iconic lucky cat to throwing around popular prejudice and cringe-worthy clichés, playwright and director Chye-Ling Huang’s script is unabashedly honest as it is deeply perceptive.

Where this piece falters ever so slightly is in its over ambition and pace. While what is being presented is compelling, the overall narrative could have benefited from being tighter, focusing on a select few talking points rather than a whole slew – though perhaps this was the intent. Regardless things did drag in parts and at times felt on the over-indulgent side.

All in all Orientation packs a punch. It is an edgy and thought-provoking theatre piece that uses one woman’s mission to find her place as the beacon that casts a light on Asian sexuality and the racial undercurrents that exists in this country.

Orientation is on at Q Theatre until 15 May as part of the MATCHBOX 2018 season. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

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Proudly Asian Theatre: Call of the Sparrows

call-of-the-sparrows-pat

Call of the Sparrows written by Chye-Ling Huang is the much anticipated, full-length version of Proudly Asian Theatre’s critically acclaimed Short+Sweet short story from 2014. The narrative features a rich concoction of storytelling techniques that, under James Roque’s mindful direction, all come together beautifully to convey a captivating and thoughtfully written tale about the struggle between holding on to the past and embracing the new.

Little Sparrow (played by Amanda Grace Leo) is the main protagonist who journeys to a faraway mountain village to wait for Min, the man she has been betrothed to at the hands of matchmakers. She moves in with his family who is run by matriarch Joa Joa who makes it clear from the get-go that she doesn’t approve of Little Sparrow or this arrangement.

Through clever use of a two-level set, shadow play and projected images on an expanse of white sheet that envelopes the performance space, we are introduced to the comings and goings of the village.  In particular, we are made to see the social and political divide between those who live at the top of the mountain and those who inhabit the base.

In the first half, Little Sparrow gets to know the many different characters who reside in the village. She quickly learns of the deeply entrenched traditions of the land as well as the community of crooks and peddlers that run the marketplace. From a whimsical potato seller to a cheeky sweets-obsessed ghost, the talented cast of five – with the help of masks and change of costume – depict the host of characters effortlessly, jumping between personalities seamlessly.

The second half sees Little Sparrow rise in the ranks and a shift in power take place with the arrival of a band of drifters who threaten to disrupt the status quo. This thinly veiled social commentary charting the shift from dictatorship to communism is cleverly illustrated and woven into the story through ‘the flock’s’ unveiling of various decrees and the consequences that follow.

What really brings this play to life is the delightfully immersive soundscape which is performed live onstage throughout. Musician Nikita Tu-Bryant expertly uses a myriad of percussion instruments to add another emotive layer to the story. This thoughtfully composed sound design complements the set design brilliantly and are arguably characters in their own right.

Call of the Sparrows is an engaging, thought-provoking and interactive production that is superbly crafted, visually intriguing and wonderfully atmospheric. Though the piece is inherently Asian, the narrative’s underlying themes of identity, family and belonging give it an easy to relate to, universal appeal.

4-stars

Just two more opportunities to catch this exciting new company’s first original production! To book tickets, click here.