State Theatre Company Review: Single Asian Female

When: Until 19th Nov
Where: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
How much: $39-$80, purchase tickets here

Rounding out the State Theatre Company 2022 season is the rambunctious Single Asian Female. Set within a cross-section of the Wong household, above their family restaurant, The Golden Phoenix, Pearl embraces life as a divorcee as she raises her two daughters; Zoe, a painfully-single exceptional violinist, and Mei, on the brink of adulthood braving exam season and her long-awaited formal.

Written by Michelle Law, her portrayal of female family ties within Single Asian Female were on point, and it was evident the dialogue was derived from lived experience. From the moments of glee, the peaks and troughs of hormones, and the hard-won arguments, everyone in the audience could relate to that relationship to mother and sister.

Law also explores the dating scene in the modern age, with strangers looking for love only a few swipes away. Pearl’s oldest, Zoe, hilariously navigates the range of seedy characters a woman has to weed through to find The One. All the while, Zoe juggles her burgeoning career, her new man, and the duty to her family ahead of entering her thirties.

The spirited young Mei is a feisty teen who starts to realise how “other” she feels as the only Asian girl in school, and starts to feel the pressure to conform, as her bubbly bestie Emily reassures her just how cool her culture is. Mei has to choose between conforming to Western beauty standards or her honouring her heritage during the night of the formal.

Single Asian Female addresses the xenophobia still prevalent within modern Australia towards immigrants and Chinese Australians; underlying racism from friends and coworkers, through to blatant racism from strangers. Pearl rattles these instances off with a laugh, but the reality of her predicament is a broader issue within Australian immigration policy.

Post intermission the plot unfurls as Pearl confesses the Wong’s family shame, and looks to her children for forgiveness and steps to a solution. The chemistry between the Wong girls is palpable and the binding force of the production, all interspersed with bursts of karaoke under the glimmer of a disco ball. Single Asian Female celebrates Asian Australian women, all ages, all relationship statuses, and does it in style.

Timed with the OzAsia festival, it’s a perfect opportunity to grab a few bao and gyoza at the Lucky Dumpling Festival below the Dunstan Playhouse before the performance. Single Asian Female is a fun-filled closer to the 2022 season, and I’m thrilled that this uplifting production was resurrected from the 2020 season.

Milly Farmer

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