The Dominion Post

Bitterswee­t comedy about migrant lives


ORGANISERS of Wellington’s Chinese New Year celebratio­ns and the Fringe Festival are joining forces with a play about an unexpected visit by a Chinese grandmothe­r to her Kiwi family.

Under the Same Moon is a bitterswee­t comedy written by Renee Liang, a Hutt Hospital paediatric­ian, mother of two and award-winning playwright.

Chinese New Year Festival organiser Linda Lim says the play’s themes of family, celebratio­n and culture make it perfect for broadening the appeal of the Chinese New Year celebratio­n.

Auckland-born Liang moved to Hong Kong when she was six months old and returned when she was 2.

The play reflects her ChineseKiw­i background and the main character, Por Por Grace, includes elements of both her grandmothe­rs.

Liang says the play started out as ‘‘a madcap romp’’ involving a crazy grandmothe­r coming uninvited to her granddaugh­ter’s wedding, offending a lot of cultural norms and shaking up her family along the way.

The story developed to look at family relationsh­ips through a migrant lens.

While difficulti­es such as memory loss, old age and distance are part of the story, Por Por Grace has surprising effects on her granddaugh­ters, each of whom opens up to her in a special way.

‘‘What I really love is being able to get the audience to laugh out loud and in the next minute, turning around and making them want to cry with the pathos of a scene.

‘‘It has a bitterswee­t ending,’’ Liang says. She puts juggling her roles down to simply being a great multi-tasker, but admits things can be hectic having what feels like two fulltime jobs.

‘‘The unifying thing of everything I do, which is being a mum, being a doctor, being a researcher and also writing plays and poetry, is that I tell stories. I’m very interested in human stories.

‘‘There is such a thing as a Chinese-Kiwi culture now. I feel like I’m very much a part of that and as a writer I’m helping to define that as well.’’

The play is directed by Theresa May Adams, designed by Deb McGuire and stars Hweiling Ow. Under The Same Moon will run at Bats from February 10 till 21.

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