Lan­tern throws a hu­mor­ous light on Kiwi-Asian dif­fer­ences

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JENNY LING

A light-hearted look at the chal­lenges of be­ing Ki­wiAsian in New Zealand will hit the stage dur­ing this year’s Auck­land Lan­tern Fes­ti­val.

It is the first time a the­atre pro­duc­tion has been in­cluded in the colour­ful fes­ti­val pro­gramme which cel­e­brates the diver­sity of Chi­nese cul­ture. The fes­ti­val runs this year in Al­bert Park and Queens Wharf from Fe­bru­ary 13 to 16.

The play, Lan­tern, takes a hu­mor­ous look at iden­tity, be­long­ing and strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween re­tain­ing cul­tural val­ues while fit­ting in to New Zealand so­ci­ety.

‘‘Be­ing Chi­nese-Kiwi means you con­stantly jug­gle sev­eral iden­ti­ties,’’ play­wright Re­nee Liang says.

‘‘On one hand, you want to do ev­ery­thing you can to fit into Kiwi so­ci­ety; on the other, you can’t run away from the things that an­chor you.’’

James Roque and ChyeLing Huang play 10 char­ac­ters in the part­com­edy, part-fam­ily drama show­ing at Mus­grove Stu­dio from Fe­bru­ary 10 to 15.

Lan­tern cen­tres on the fic­tional Chen fam­ily – hus­band Henry, his es­tranged wife Rose, their young adult chil­dren – and their strug­gles to come to­gether as the Chi­nese New Year ap­proaches.

Mr Roque, who was born in the Philip­pines and moved to New Zealand with his fam­ily as an 8-year-old, can iden­tify with his char­ac­ters.

‘‘Grow­ing up as an Asian male, it’s a crazy ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ the Free­mans Bay res­i­dent says.

‘‘I find it hard to know which group I can iden­tify with. I go to a Filipino fes­ti­val and think ‘this is a cul­ture shock’ and feel a stranger to my own cul­ture.

‘‘It’s about find­ing the bal­ance be­tween fit­ting in to New Zealand cul­ture but also hon­our­ing your roots.’’

The play is di­rected by Eli Matthewson and Hamish Parkin­son and pro­duced by Pretty Asian The­atre Com­pany.

Mr Roque and Ms Huang, who grad­u­ated from Unitec’s school of per­form­ing and screen arts in 2012, formed the pro­duc­tion com­pany the next year to tell more Kiwi Asian sto­ries. Lan­tern is its sec­ond pro­duc­tion af­ter FOB (Fresh off the Boat), by David Henry Hwang, was per­formed at the Base­ment Stu­dio last June.

Ms Huang, an Eden Tce res­i­dent, says PAT stemmed from a lack of pro­duc­tions that ad­dress con­tem­po­rary Asian view­points in New Zealand.

‘‘I started to no­tice a real gap in full-bod­ied char­ac­ters and sto­ries and any kind of Asian pres­ence in the New Zealand con­text on stage,’’ she says.

‘‘There’s no young com­pany ded­i­cated to it. A lot of the time the rep­re­sen­ta­tions you see are very to­ken.

‘‘We want to see more well­rounded full-bod­ied peo­ple ... less stereo­typ­i­cal char­ac­ters.’’

Lan­tern fes­ti­val or­gan­iser Erin Ngan says the play is a per­fect fit.

‘‘One of our aims is ex­tend­ing the Lan­tern Fes­ti­val to ex­plore deeper into Asian-Kiwi cul­ture, us­ing the tal­ents of our artists and writ­ers,’’ he says.

Jug­gling iden­ti­ties: James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang take on mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters in the play Lan­tern as part of the Auck­land Lan­tern Fes­ti­val.

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