Theatre Review: In Between Two

Written, Composed and Performed by Joelistics and James Mangohig

Developed by Annette Shun Was and William Yang

Director Suzanne Chaundy

Photographs Sarah Walker

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

Ever had a theatrical experience that spun your attitude 180 degrees?

When I heard that In Between Two was going to tell a story, through dialogue, monologue and hip hop music, there was some hesitation, but the experiences of two Asian men who were the products of mixed marriages, growing up in Australia, were always going to be sociologically and psychologically interesting.

The White Australia Policy, which officially formed part the Australian constitution, was finally deleted in 1973, but there were 72 years of ingrained racism specifically directed at Asian immigrants.

Joel’s and James’ fathers are both Asian, and when they came to Australia they married Australian women at a time when Asian-Caucasian marriages were unusual. Think of the Bruce Lee biographies that showed the social repercussions of his marriage to Linda Emery in 1964, and the U.S.A. was less racist towards Asians than Australia was.

This production covers mixed marriages, confused identities, cross cultures, and questions whether or not racism still exists in this country. It’s set up by the lyric at the end of the first song - “Who am I?”

The stories are fascinating and relevant, and are true Australian tales. The involvement of dramaturges William Yang and Annette Shun Wah could only have enhanced the entire production and performances under Suzanne Chaundy’s skilful direction.

Hip hop could not have been further from my musical awareness, but Joel Ma a.k.a. Joelistics and James Mangohig, who are highly respected in the Australian music industry, don’t affect American accents and they don’t pretend to be black Americans; they’re unmistakably Australian and their messages come through the poetry in their chosen medium. The iambic pentameter well used by Shakespeare comes through loud and clear. This is probably the most authentic music I have heard and the same goes for the rest of the production.

In Between Two is ultimately compelling, surprising, revealing, entertaining, uplifting, amusing and unique, and if hip hop isn’t your favourite music genre, your attitude might shift just a little.

You can catch In Between Two on April 4 and 5 at the ARA Darling Quarter Theatre.

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