New Ghosts Debuts CUT CHILLI by Chenturan Aran at the Old Fitz

Performances run July 5 - 27.

By: Jun. 20, 2024
New Ghosts Debuts CUT CHILLI by Chenturan Aran at the Old Fitz
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In July 2024, New Ghosts Theatre Company (NGTC) will present the world premiere season of Cut Chilli by Chenturan Aran at the Old Fitz Theatre. The season marks NGTC’s second production in their inaugural year as custodians of the iconic basement theatre in Woolloomooloo, and builds on NGTC’s stellar track-record of exceptional new Australian work. 

Cut Chilli is a scorching new Australian comedy about a Sri Lankan adoptee challenging his family’s story about how he came to Australia as an infant. Set at a suburban dinner table, this new work from Sri Lankan Australian playwright and journalist, Chenturan Aran, is a banquet of cultural clashes, family secrets, and rupturing revelations.

The play won the Union House Theatre Award for Best New Writing in 2020, and was developed by Melbourne Theatre Company as part of Cybec Electric (2022), which highlights urgent new work. The play received further development by Australia Plays Transform and La Boite Theatre (2023-24).

The production is to be directed by David Burrowes, co-founder of STUDIO NOCTURNA, and will see the return of NGTC artists Soham Apte (Set Designer), Rita Naidu (Costume Designer), and Oscar Ali (Stage Manager).

In Cut Chilli, the protagonist, Jamie, believes he was abandoned as a baby in Sri Lanka. That’s the story his adoptive mother, Katherine, has always told. When Jamie falls for Zahra, an activist who tells him about the shady history of intercountry adoption, he begins to question this narrative and wonders why he’s never seen his adoption file.

“By focusing on a brown boy in a white family, Cut Chilli explores the effects of cultural displacement, internalised racism, and assimilation pressures. Ultimately, I see Cut Chilli as a universal tale about a family struggling to find open dialogue and compassion to learn about each other’s secret pains and losses. I believe now more than ever, we need stories about how we navigate difficult conversations around imperfect histories.” – Chentruan Aran

The play is aptly described as an “irreverent comedy”, and is inspired by pervasive adoption fraud in Sri Lanka. Australian-born Chenturan developed the script through interviews with Sri Lankan adoptees who are still unsure of their true origin stories.

“Chen’s wonderful play, in being so detailed and specific about the intercountry adoptee experience, has also found this incredible universality in expressing what it means to be from here, but not of here. It's an important play about an issue that persists to this day and that the nation still haunted by the shameful spectre of the Stolen Generation would do well to hear about.” – David Burrowes

In presenting this work, NGTC has partnered with InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV), and engaged the company’s Founding Director Lynelle Long to provide invaluable insight into the intercountry adoption community. Resulting from this partnership, two performances in the season will be presented exclusively for ICAV’s invited community of intercountry adoptees, adoptive families, adoption professionals, and domestic adoptees. This will be followed by post-show engagement including a Q&A, and associate artist presentation opportunities. 

“I am supportive of Cut Chilli because our community of intercountry adoptees are impacted by illegal adoptions but so often remain invisible to the wider public who generally think of adoption as a wonderful win-win situation. This play will be an amazing way to reach the wider public and help them better understand the impacts and complexities of life as an intercountry adoptee, especially in coming to terms with whether our adoption was illegal or not. I hope to bring to the project the real life experience that is replicated by the thousands within my wider global community of impacted intercountry adoptees from many countries, not just Sri Lanka. The mission of my network, InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV) is to ensure we are better supported and to help educate the wider public about our experiences that have lifelong consequences.” – Lynelle Long 

A post-show Q&A will also be presented as part of the public performance season on Saturday 27 July for audiences to gain insight into the creative processes of the work, and to advocate for and raise awareness of the complexities of the lived experiences of the intercountry adoption community. 

“Cut Chilli is a brilliantly funny and deeply empathetic piece of writing. It manages to facilitate a nuanced and insightful conversation around intercountry adoption, the love that motivates and sustains it and the wilful naivety about the broken, exploitative and racist systems that enables it. More than that, it speaks about racism, multiculturalism and belonging in Australia through a lens that puts our shared humanity first, that uses humour to push back against the polarisation that defines the current debate. I’ve never seen something like it on an Australian stage before – I think it’s going to be a special one.” – David Burrowes


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