Cul­tural con­fu­sion

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABADIA

WEST meets east in a play about two Kiwi sis­ters grow­ing up in Shang­hai.

Writer Ni­cole Steven, 24, of Pt Che­va­lier has loosely based her first full-length play Squir­rel on the ex­pe­ri­ences she had living in China as a child.

The Stevens fam­ily spent sev­eral years living in Bei­jing for her fa­ther’s work when she was a tod­dler. Then they re­turned for six months when she was 10.

‘‘I re­alised at that age that we are Western­ers. We’re rich and we have dif­fer­ent rules to a lot of the Chi­nese. For in­stance the one-child pol­icy.’’

Life in the ex­pat com­mu­nity was quite seg­re­gated, she says.

‘‘It was nor­mal for wealthy Chi­nese to spend time with Western­ers but for poorer peo­ple, or ones living in the coun­try­side, Western­ers were a rare thing for them to come across.’’

In some ways it was an emo­tional roller­coaster of an ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘The cul­ture clash be­tween New Zealand and a coun­try like China is mas­sive. One minute you see some­thing that’s beau­ti­ful and fan­tas­tic and then you can turn around the cor­ner and see some­thing that goes com­pletely against your own morals. Chi­nese com­ing to New Zealand are also on a sim­i­lar roller­coaster be­cause all of a sud­den they’re in a com­pletely new en­vi­ron­ment with a new lan­guage, rules and be­hav­iours.

‘‘My char­ac­ter dis­likes the amount of peo­ple and in­dus- try and she misses na­ture. The other char­ac­ter en­joys the city and the chaos.’’

Mt Al­bert res­i­dent Alice Pearce plays Steven’s sis­ter.

‘‘The char­ac­ters are con­fused about some of the things in the cul­ture be­cause they’re not fully im­mersed,’’ the 24-year-old says.

‘‘It’s quite nice see­ing Western­ers hav­ing to deal with cul­ture clash. The Chi­nese are the norm and we’re the out­siders.’’

Steven is proud to have en­listed an all-fe­male cast and crew.

‘‘You see a lot of male roles and it’s nice to have fe­male roles that ac­tu­ally go on a jour­ney as op­posed to be­ing de­fined only by the male role.’’

Squir­rel is part of the 2015 Auck­land Fringe Fes­ti­val. It’s on at the Base­ment Theatre from Fe­bru­ary 28 till March 1. Tick­ets are $15–$18 from iticket.co.nz.

Photo: KA­RINA ABADIA

Child's per­spec­tive: Alice Pearce and Ni­cole Steven star in the play Squir­rel.

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