BWW REVIEW: A WESTERNER'S GUIDE TO THE OPIUM WARS Explores One Young Woman's Search For Identity And Heritage With Heart And Humour
Saturday 28th October 2017, M2 Gallery Surry Hills
Personal heritage and political history is explored in Tabitha Woo's (writer and performer) one-woman expression of discovering her identity in A WESTERNER'S GUIDE TO THE OPIUM WARS. Directed by Kevin Ng, Woo uses this very personal work to challenge the audience to examine their own identity and heritage in a society where most people are from somewhere else, or their parents or grandparents are.
Half Chinese, half Anglo Australian, Tabitha Woo blurs timelines to initially take the audience back to 1939, the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, to give the audience an understanding of England's role in causing the famous Opium Wars before exploring her own connection to China and her realisation that she had lost connection with her heritage. Woo utilises a variety of styles to present the amalgam of history lesson, social commentary and personal exploration that eventually follows a common theme of one-person writer/actor shows that use the stage as a form of therapy. Costuming, high and low-tech props and the odd musical interlude help illustrate the well-researched work that is presented with an intelligence and simplicity to make the work informative but also entertaining.
Whilst the title and the introduction imply a focus on the Opium Wars, A WESTERNER'S GUIDE TO THE OPIUM WARS is more about retaining links to the past and understanding one's heritage. Woo highlights how fast the connection to the past can be lost, using the importance of language to indicate the ease with which the past can be forgotten. She also highlights the commercialisation and cultural appropriation that has distorted the truth of cultures, in particular the creation of San Francisco's China Town that bared little resemblance to the true essence of China but , along with other 'China Towns' around the world formed a kind of comfort in the recognisable motifs incorporated with the kitch.
Whilst there are a few sound tech issues in the intimate gallery turned performance space of M2 Gallery, this is an engaging and intriguing work that reminds the audience that everyone has come from somewhere, whether it be generations ago or recently, and that we should be keeping the stories of the past alive. The work also teaches that we need to accept our past and refuse the temptation to judge on face value and be wary of succumbing to casual racism and cultural appropriation as we ensure our heritage survives for future generations
M2 Gallery Surry Hills
25-29th October 2017
Images Supplied by Producer