Single Asian Female review
By now you’ve seen promo for Single Asian Female here on Debate and maybe around the city or other social channels too. If you’re still wondering what Single Asian Female is, I’m pleased to be the bearer of good news and tell you that it’s two hours very well spent!
Single Asian Female is a comedy play written by Chinese-Australian Michelle Law that has made its way here after a successful run in Australia. Currently running until May 15th at the ASB Waterfront Theatre, it’s a great night out and a cool opportunity to immerse yourself in a storytelling tradition you may not be familiar with (like me!).
With every premise to a movie, play, or even song, there is an unspoken promise.
The premise here is a dysfunctional family of three, single, Asian women navigating life.
The promise made is multiple and to name just a few: that of feeling seen, catharsis, and of course lots of laughs. Judging by the experience shared by myself and the audience on opening night, Single Asian Female delivers on this promise and then some.
Let’s talk more about this experience.
I had the chance to attend with Rebecca after Single Asian Female hooked us up with tickets. Feeling under the weather close to the date, however, Rebecca left me with the unbearable dilemma of choosing someone else to go with. After the longest half-second of contemplating, I decided I had to dog Andy and attend instead with my girlfriend who as Rebecca sagely pointed out is Asian. As far as white dudes go Andy is great, but between making it a date night and having to constantly check whether he’s laughing a little too hard at some of the jokes, it was a no-brainer.
See for Andy that’s mostly sarcasm, but it’s a real thing and any marginalised person can probably relate especially in comedy. At one point in the night we commented that this almost feels too intimate for a general crowd and this speaks to a dynamic worth touching on. (see below one of several comments made by my SO when l showed her a first draft)
The play actually addresses some of this in a cheeky fourth wall breaking moment but I wanted to echo it further. It was a relief to feel like they weren’t pulling their punches when it comes to whiteness and white supremacy.
(The fourth wall refers to the invisible wall between us in the audience and the stage by the way. When it’s broken, someone on stage speaks to us directly for example).
This is by no means discouraging anyone who’s not a single, Asian woman from going, especially for the sake of its financial success, but I’d be remiss to not stress that while enjoying this genuinely entertaining show, don’t forget to put on your self-reflective cap.
You obviously have no control over what jokes you find funny or not - our tastes are a reflection of our upbringing and the communities and society we’ve been brought up in. Take this opportunity to maybe consider your biases and why some things tickle your funny bone more. Again, go have a good time - I just want to draw attention to this in case you thought the play isn’t speaking to you because you’re not as bad as your other white friends who mysteriously only have Asian exes. A little self-reflection goes a long way, self-flagellation and white guilt are useless but that’s a different topic.
The moments where the cast spoke directly to us were some of my favourite parts because again, the play refuses to pull its punches or tone itself down. Comedy tends to be at its best when we’re rooting for the underdogs. Like all comedy some jokes hit harder than others, and the joke about prisons feels out of place even if it suits the character, but at the end of the day it’s a consistent show that never spins its wheels whether tackling internalised racism or how shit online dating can be.
The production team and cast do justice to the ups and downs of Pearl, Zoe, Mei who we’re introduced to at difficult times of their lives like the best stories do. Life’s challenges are no smaller by the end, but as a family they’re better equipped to deal with the structures of oppression being made fun of. To reiterate, this doesn’t feel like pandering. You can tell there’s been Asian women making the decisions from pre-production to running the show itself.
SAF delivers on its promise. By the time you’ve left the theatre, you’ve laughed - and maybe cried - through the multiplicity of experiences that Asians, specifically Asian women face.
SAF represents a step in the right direction for the Auckland Theatre Company as the first show led by Chinese New Zealanders. Hopefully this production opens the door to more stories that capture the Asian diasporic experience, maybe even tapping into the pool of local writing talent (shoutout PASC who helped put this together).
For a more in-depth look into our local theatre scene and the context this play has emerged from, check out Renee Liang’s excellent review on theatreview.org.nz!
P.S. I want to highlight that future shows include the closing night on May 15th with sign language interpretation and on May 12th an Audio Described & Touch tour!