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Theatre Review - Miss Peony

Miss Peony

Written by Michelle Law

Director Courtney Stewart

Belvoir St. Theatre until July 30

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

theatre reviews sydney

Seeing a play with an all-Chinese cast in mainstream Australian theatre is a rarity.

Miss Peony is a beauty/talent/intelligence competition that was originally established to celebrate the Chinese living in Australia. Four Australian Born Chinese women are the main contestants.

Lily's Por Por’s (grandmother’s) dying wish is for Lily to win the prestigious competition. Lily just makes the age cut-off point so it’s her last opportunity to make the family proud. Just to be sure, Adeline turns up as a ghost to oversee.

Miss Peony Theatre Review

From my lifetime of observation, there are two types of older Chinese women. One type is quiet and observant and the other speaks her mind in every situation, even if her brutal honesty hurts more sensitive family members. Matriarch Adeline is on her death bed and still tells Lily what is expected of her. At first Lily reluctantly enters the competition and is rebellious and critical of the concept. Her attitude changes as she gets to know her Por Por.

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All four young women are torn between the country in which they were born and their Chinese heritage. Director Courtney Stewart has a strong cast, with Jing-Xuan Chan as Marcy, Shirong Wu as Joy, Mabel Li as Sabrina and Stephanie Jack as the central Lily. Sabrina is straight out of south-western Sydney, "Oh ma gaw, maaate”, and complains that when waiters in Chinese restaurants hear her voice, they offer her a fork.

Charles Wu as the MC, Zhen Hua, stands out as he provides some balance.

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Gabrielle Chan as Adeline is outstanding. A few decades ago it was impossible to find a decent older Chinese actress, but Chan projects the best and worst of her character and the grace of her movements is a delight.

Australian Born Chinese people will identify many of the references including the ever-present racism (yes, it does still exist), A Current Affair's penchant for targeting Asian business people and that culturally torn Asian Australians are sometimes their own worst enemies.

To help with the fact that the dialogue is performed in three languages, there are surtitles in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

If you feel like some theatre that has diversity, Miss Peony is brilliantly entertaining, funny and different.

ron lee theatre reviews


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