Chain Play – Sydney Fringe Festival (NSW)

Directed by Katie Ord and Sammy Jing

Reviewed by Juliana Payne

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Presented by Slanted Theatre
Flight Path Theatre, Marrickville
21st-24th September 2022

Slanted Theatre is only one and a half years old, but they’re already making a difference.  This is their fourth production in such a short time, and it’s enlivening for an audience to watch Asian theatre-makers just doing their thing. Chain Play is a cleverly conceived pair of short plays that have been written by a slew of 12 people.  Each writer had to create one scene, and they could only read the scene just before theirs. The results are not as mad as you might think.

Okay – I need to declare up front that I’m a non-Asian person reviewing a production by Asian-Australian writers, performers and creatives. As a writer, I endeavour to be able to keep watching and reviewing productions like this, because they are fresh, funny and just so joyful, even when they are making serious social points.

The first play Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way (directed by Katie Ord) featured a simple but very effective set to evoke an aged care home. The acting by and large was pretty decent, and nothing that a bit more rehearsing couldn’t improve. The story of a mysterious will that leaves a billion-dollar bequest up for grabs tumbled along at a fast pace, as each scene threw up funny twists and turns that would put Agatha Christie to shame. The plot however was solid at its core and could easily be developed further into a kind of Shallow Grave or A Simple Plan if they wanted to take a darker turn.

The second play How Asian Are You? (directed by Sammy Jing) was a kind of absurdist Six Characters in Search of an Author meets Hunger Games.  More overtly political and with some great satirical turns, it was a touch didactic but hey, you get that when you want to start a revolution. The constant humour ensured that the sting wasn’t too harsh, but they had urgent points to make and they were made well.  The staging was well-blocked on a bare stage, with the odd prop for the actors to lean on. The great bubble-tea debate was hilarious, and the audience was loving the in-jokes and self-deprecating humour. The magnificent finale of this play was a treat to behold.

Sure, the productions were a bit raw, the actors are finding their feet and voices, and the productions are a bit unpolished but that’s what ‘Fringe’ is all about. These productions still evoked the magical engagement that only live performance can achieve. Congratulations to Tiffany Wong and Aaron Cornelius and their crew in their brave new world of anti-tokenism and supporting emerging Asian casts and creatives. 

Maybe one day we’ll just be able to watch people of all races and backgrounds just acting seamlessly in great productions without having to be classified.

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How Asian Are You
Susan Huang, Linda Chong, Spencer Monro, Jonathan Lim, Eric Lee, Marie-Jo Orbase, Cheng Tang
Director Sammy Jing
Assistant Director Natania McLeod Roberts
Sound Designer Sam Cheng
Dramaturg Nigeen Ansari
Christina Kim, Eezu Tan, Alan Fang, Grace Hu, Simone Wang, Matt Bostock

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Teddy Jamieson, Michelle Masefield, Susan Ling Young, Brendon Chhor, Stef Chang, Jeno Kim
Director Katie Ord
Assistant Director Enoch Li
Sound Designer Johnny Yang
Dramaturg Eric Lee
Katrina Trinh, Mason Phoumirath, Julia Faragher, Niranjanan Sriganeshwaran, Natasha Pontoh-Supit, Natania McLeod Roberts

Producer: Aaron Cornelius
Assistant Producers: Nelson Lee and Clara Wong
Artistic Director: Tiffany Wong
Production Designer: Rachel Hui
Assistant Costume Designers: Chloe Ho and Katrina Chan
Lighting Designer: Catherine Mai
Stage Manager: Natalie Baghoumian

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