With Single Asian Female (the original book published 2018) writer and screenwriter Michelle Law – winner of an Australian Writer’s Guild AWGIE award and debuting her play at the Melbourne Arts Centre last night – delivers a stark portrayal of what it means to be single, Asian and female in Australia today. Telling the story of migrant reality, Law covers a number of topics in a play that focuses on a Chinese mother (Pearl) and her adult daughters (Mei and Zoe); members of the same Wong family yet representing different generations with opposite, often conflicting, attitudes.
While the mother staunchly defends Asian values, ethics and traditions, her Australian-born daughters speak fluent Aussie slang and have carved a space and identities for themselves in an originally Anglo culture where, however, multiculturalism and hybridity have become buzz words. Opening with a scene from inside the Phoenix Chinese Restaurant on the Sunshine Coast, Single Asian Female presents us with a mother turned matriarch pondering life including a broken marriage, parenthood, business, and a new sense of freedom in her capacity as a woman rid of her man, proudly Asian, a mother, and quite happy in her own skin.
Calling her play a “shout-out to those creatives who choose to tell stories in which minority characters are sidelined, ridiculed, despised and undeveloped”, Law speaks of a rage that fuels this play and yet there are moments of ease and happiness too. On the whole, Single Asian Female is anything but easy to watch. Rather, this is a black comedy with which we can all identify in one way or another – be we “feminazis” or simply believers in women, natives or migrants, members of non-minorities or minorities. The play boldly touches on womanhood, singledom, female emancipation, identity and gender issues and speaks of clashing cultures that are perhaps not that different on reflection.
After all, women share common experiences and dilemmas across the board. Engaging and entertaining yet not witty, ambitious and cerebral yet rather drawn out, comical but not light-hearted, Single Asian Female leaves us with mixed feelings. The play tackles serious subject matters and forces us to reconsider what it means to be Australian in our multi-ethnic 21st century.
Dates: 3 - 21 April, 2019 Location: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, Melbourne Running time: 140 mins
Cost: $34 – $44