Review: Golden Blood – SBW Stables Theatre (NSW)

Written by Merlynn Tong, Directed by Tessa Leong, Sound design by Rainbow Chan

Review by Charlotte Smee

Loosely based on events in her own life, Merlynn Tong brings the story of newly orphaned Singaporean siblings “Boy” and “Girl” to the Griffin stage. Girl is 14 and Boy is 21 when their mother takes her life, and Boy convinces Girl to sign the papers making him her legal guardian. Girl wants to take care of marsupials in Australia, and Boy has a thousand and one business ideas, most of which are illegal and involving his “brothers” in the gang. As they grow older, we watch them wrangle with riches, gangsters, Chinese culture, intergenerational trauma and how to let their parents go.

Set and costumes by Michael Hankin line the stage and walls in gold, with golden origami paper scattered along its edges. Gold and red feature strongly throughout, a simple but clear way to bring a sense of the Chinese tradition Boy and Girl are surrounded by. Simple costume and props with lighting from Fausto Brusamolino take us from Singaporean karaoke bars, the dirty penthouse, and all the way to the Australian ocean. Sound design by Rainbow Chan is similarly understated in its’ references to Chinese culture, bringing an energetic pop approach to the sounds of Singapore in the 90s.

Entirely in Singlish (Singaporean English), but not without care for English speaking audiences, Tong’s writing is fast-paced, funny and sincere. Her energy and comedic timing as Girl were effervescent. Alongside the formidable voice and talent of Charles Wu, and with the help of Tessa Leong’s direction, they make a fizzingly toxic sibling team. Leong has a great sense of the Griffin space, and transitions between Boy and Girl’s different ages were very clear through embodied characterisation and LED screens behind them. The play is almost cinematic in tone, with suggestions of gang fights and parties brought through soundscape, lighting and the commitment of Wu and Tong.

A roller-coaster ride of what it’s like to guide yourself and your young siblings through capitalism, love, family, and culture without anyone else to help.

Brilliant moments of theatre came when Girl finally finds out the real reason Boy became her guardian, and they hold each other’s gaze as they hash out everything that brought them to the dizzying heights and crashing lows of scam artistry. Another particularly poignant moment was when they finally decided to burn hell money for their mother (a Chinese ritual offering money to ancestors/deceased family members), despite no one having taught them the proper ritual. Their entangled journey is a colourful and intricate portrait so generously created by an accomplished team.

A roller-coaster ride of what it’s like to guide yourself and your young siblings through capitalism, love, family, and culture without anyone else to help, this is one of those rare combinations of great writing, great actors and a great sense of mise-en-scene. Everything in this production works hard to be there, right down to the souvenir Australian koala, and the result is worth its weight in gold.

Reviewer Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Photo Credits: Brett Boardman Photography

Golden Blood plays at the Griffin Theatre Company until 30th July 2022. Tickets can be booked here.

Director Tessa Leong
Set & Costume Designer Michael Hankin
Lighting Designer Fausto Brusamolino
Composer & Sound Designer Rainbow Chan
Producer Eloise Snape
Dramaturg Jennifer Medway
Effects Consultant Emily Parsons-Lord
Stage Manager Susie Henderson
Stage Manager Jen Jackson
With Merlynn Tong, Charles Wu

Preview 24 – 28 June
Opening Nights 29 & 30 June
Season 1 – 30 July

Performance Times
Monday – Friday 7pm
Saturday 1pm & 7pm

Meet the Artists
Tuesday 5 July

Captioned Performance
Tuesday 12 July

Run Time
90 minutes (no interval)

Please note, there is a complete lock-out on all performances and latecomers won’t be admitted, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to us, grab a drink, and get settled.

Full $62
Senior, Preview, Groups 8+ $52
Concession $46
Under 35 $38
Monday Rush* $20
*Monday Rush tickets are available online and over the phone on Mondays from noon, for that evening’s performance until sold out.


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