Back in the early ‘90s, a semi-thrilling thriller called ‘Single White Female’ hit the cinemas.
Its premise was a woman looking for the aforementioned lady in the title and her new roomie turning out to be a little unhinged (that’s what you get for racial profiling).
A couple of decades later, Michelle Law decided to write a blog documenting issues, with tongue firmly in cheek, relevant to the Asian community.
Since then, she has written for TV (and is sister of 'The Family Law' actor Benjamin Law) and is now working with playwright-come-director Claire Christian on a play with the same name of the blog, ‘Single Asian Female’.
The play focuses on the challenges faced by Cantonese-speaking mum Pearl and her two daughters, both in terms of heritage and simply the age gap.
“The mum emigrated from Hong Kong in her 20s, and opened a Chinese restaurant while her daughters grew up in Nambour,” Claire explains.
“The big questions for these two characters is how are they Asian Australians? How do white Australians interact with them and how do they interpret it? I think it will be close to home to our Asian Australians or any audience members from a migrant family, and that there will be a lot to relate to. As well as other Australians who will say, 'oh I never realised it was racist'. It will challenge them and make them see things from a new perspective.”
The reason it’s based in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast is that Michelle grew up there. Claire says it’s semi-autobiographical but while the play deals with some serious issues, it also provides lots of laughs.
“It’s by no means a political piece. Michelle has just written an excellent piece of contemporary realism that explores the lives of these three characters. We don’t hear predominantly from our Asian Australian women in the arts sector or anywhere in the media, so I think by default it’s become a piece that will educate or politicise the way that we work right now.
“Part of the story is Pearl’s relationship to her Chinese restaurant but then there’s different ideals around relationships, language, social media. There’s lots of jokes about Pearl’s English which causes much hilarity. I think the gap is more generational than cultural. It’s a comedy because the six characters are funny human beings. The characters are funny rather than it being a farce or a gag a minute.”
CEO Todd MacDonald of iconic theatre in Brisbane, La Boite, has dedicated himself to the ethos of promoting diversity and this work fits in perfectly with his vision.
“He has a genuine commitment to diversity in the arts,” Claire says. “He wants La Boite to be the theatre company that models what that looks like in our arts sector which is pretty masculine and white and we only hear the same stories over and over again from the same voices. Todd is committed to that not being the case because it doesn’t represent the world, the community or the Australia we live in.”
The play stars ‘The Checkout’ actor Alex Lee, Emily Burton, Hsiao-Ling Tang, Courtney Stewart, Emily Vascotto and the sole male actor Patrick Jhanur.
“It’s a female-heavy ensemble. Patrick’s going to be overcome by oestrogen,” Claire laughs.
'Single Asian Female' plays at La Boite Theatre from 11 February-4 March.