Dragon Tales @ Riverside Parramatta

Happy Lunar New Year!

‘Tis the year of the dragon and what better way to celebrate than by supporting new and emerging voices in our industry. Slanted Theatre’s play reading festival Dragon Tales, presented in partnership with National Theatre of Parramatta’s True West Program, showcased a range of promising up-and-coming theatre writers and performers, each with an exciting story to tell highlighting a unique aspect of Asian-Australian culture and tradition.

Watching the plays performed in their embryonic stages gave the writers, directors and performers a chance to ‘test the waters’ in front of a live audience, all under the mentorship and guide of Slanted Theatre’s Artistic Director Tiffany Wong, mother of all Mother Dragons who opened the show with an ancient story about the origin of the mythical creature on the lunar calendar. According to legend, dragons are always the first to help others with their enormous strength and size, and in this spirit of fostering collaboration, the evening was a wonderful display of support and encouragement for these baby dragons about to hatch their stories into the world for the first time.

The show I attended on Tuesday 13 February featured the following performances:

1. A Chinese Christmas: It’s Christmas Eve in Sydney, and Heepa is hosting Christmas for the first time. He’s decorated the tree with a variety of trinkets and memorabilia; each with its own memory attached. But when he’s visited by his many ancestors in the dead of night, gifts are given, stories are shared, and family past and present are honoured. A warm, nostalgic, and often silly collection of stories about a young man and his grandmother.

Dedicated to my Paw Paw and anyone who struggles to feel like they belong.

A Chinese Christmas
Written by Trent Foo
Directed by Adam Yoon
Performed by Hugo Liu, Tiang Lim, and Jolin Jiang

2. The Birds and the Besties is a comedic and relatable play that centres around the friendship of two women, Kat and Mena, as they navigate their different perspectives on sex, boyfriends, and desire. Through surrealist skits all taking place at a sleepover, they challenge each other’s beliefs and ultimately learn to embrace sexual liberation as a form of self-expression.

The Birds and the Besties
Written by Marie-Jo Orbase
Directed by Dominique Purdue
Performed by Isabelle Nader & Marie-Jo Orbase3

3. Australian Gangster is a dark comedy that pokes fun at Australia’s obsession with all things American through the story of a young Australian Born Chinese man who steals a fake brick of cocaine.

Bryan Choo desperately wants to be an American gangster. The only problem is he works at his dad’s Chinese restaurant in Emu Plains. When the local pub owner creates a fake brick of cocaine out of ground up kitty litter, Bryan decides to steal it and chase the Australian dream of becoming a gangster. Australian Gangster has all the cruel irony of a Martin McDonagh play populated with the idiot drug smugglers of a Guy Ritchie film.

Australian Gangster
Written & Directed by James Hartley
Performed by Keiden Cheung, Mick Harris, Neil Parikh, and Natasha Cheng

4. Soy Sad: A lot of things are bottled. Water, juice, sauces and most importantly, emotions. Soy Sad explores the role of culture when it comes to legacies and the unexpected ways we can manifest the ultimate goal. A good cry.

Soy Sad
Written by Kevin Tran
Directed by Katie Ord
Performed by Jack Aldo

5. Bin Room: Inside a bougie apartment in the eastern suburbs, the lives of two twenty-somethings take a surreal turn when they become prisoners inside the waste disposal room, otherwise known as, the bin room. To escape, they must unravel the mystery surrounding their closest friend—an enigmatic Japanese-Australian influencer whose dark secret is about to get her cancelled.

Bin Room
Written by Serena Coady
Directed by Aileen Huynh
Performed by Monica Kumar & Cynthia Ng

6. My Big Fat Asian Wedding piece culminates in a Malaysian-Australian wedding where things go wrong. Family secrets spill, the wedding cake topples over, and a kidnapping happens.

My Big Fat Asian Wedding
Written & directed by Eezu Tan
Performed by Susan Ling Young, Gerwin Widjaja, Melissa Gan & Keiden Cheung

Dragon Tales played at Riverise Parramatta on Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 February. For more information about Slanted Theatre and the development of these creative projects, go to https://slantedtheatre.com/

Photography: Robert Hoang

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