Having a laugh at stereotypes
Michelle Ang and Jo Holsted are undertaking an experiment.
They are asking audiences to suspend their prejudices as they take a fresh look at what it means to be a Kiwi in their first theatre show Chop/Stick.
Born out of Ms Ang’s frustration that she would never have an opportunity to play outside of her ethnicity, the comedic one-woman show sees the actress take on 13 different characters from a crosssection of New Zealand society.
‘‘It’s a challenge – the audience has to meet us halfway,’’ she says.
‘‘We’re really trying to give these perspectives from a really cheeky, irreverent way and discover if I, as a woman of Asian descent, can play a Caucasian or a Samoan guy.’’
Chop/Stick is playing at The Basement Theatre next week.
The pair are new to the Auckland theatre circuit and have written, produced and promoted the play themselves.
Ms Ang, well known for her roles in Outrageous Fortune and My Wedding and Other Secrets, is now starring in a new American television series but says she couldn’t resist the chance to return to work on the project.
Inspiration for the cast of colourful characters has come from ‘‘all over the place’’, she says.
‘‘I feel like some of my characterisations from an acting perspective, particularly for Grandma, have come from my aunty who I’m staying with at the moment.
‘‘She’s got some
of these really classic, fierce looks that I feel might have crept their way into that character,’’ Ms Ang says.
Ms Holsted says every Kiwi should be able to see a piece of themselves somewhere in the show.
‘‘There’s definitely something real in all of the characters,’’ the Grey Lynn resident says. ‘‘Some of them were more of a conduit for what we wanted to say, but there’s nobody that doesn’t have an element we haven’t seen in someone, even if it’s a broad stroke.’’
The play is more of a ‘‘gentle prod’’ to the consciousness than a serious take on stereotyping.
‘‘We want to bring up potentially offensive issues so they become a topic of conversation but we’re pointing the finger at everyone.
‘‘There’s not one person that we’re saying is wrong or right, or that there even is a wrong or a right.
‘‘I would love people to come away from the play with some new thoughts that they didn’t have before but also for them to have had fun and enjoyed it,’’ Ms Holsted says.
Response to the play has been overwhelmingly positive so far, Ms Ang says.
‘‘I think everyone will find the humour in it and that’s the thing, different groups will find different things funny – which is funny in itself.’’
Chop/Stick runs from November 20 to 24 at The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave.
Performances are from 8.30pm with a matinee on November 24 at 2.30pm.
For tickets call 361 1000 or go to iticket.co.nz.
Fresh perspective: Michelle Ang and Jo Holsted put a host of Kiwi stereotypes in the frame for their play Chop/Stick at The Basement Theatre.
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