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October 15, 2022
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January 2, 2023

Review: Single Asian Female at Dunstan Playhouse

Written by highly acclaimed author Michelle Law and first commissioned by and premiered at La Boite Theatre Company in Brisbane in 2017, Single Asian Female tells the knowing story of Pearl, the quintessential matriarch, balancing family, business, and her love of karaoke.

Set inside the humble family restaurant on the Sunshine Coast, The Golden Phoenix, Pearl and her daughters are at a crossroads. Zoe, the eldest, is in the throes of online dating, and having a quarter life crisis. Typical teenager Mei, is struggling with her identity in modern Australia, trying to get ready for her formal and fit in with the cool crowd. Of course, they see the world differently to their mother. Pearl is the classic (hilarious) onslaught of embarrassing observations, constantly questioning her Westernised children. But she holds a secret that threatens to tear their family apart.

Brilliantly directed by Nescha Jelk (Euphoria, Jasper Jones), she ensures this work never turns into a cartoon of stereotypes, but retains the authenticity and accurate portrayal of these first and second generation Australians.

As a second-generation Italian myself, these encounters resonated with me enormously, and reminded me of my childhood – this work speaks to the many immigrant cultures that make up modern Australia.

The insanely talented Ailsa Paterson created the tri-dimensional set of The Golden Phoenix, including the upstairs apartment. The fourth wall into the rooms was genius, as was the colour palette – reds and yellows for the restaurant, popping pink for Mei’s room, and muted tones for when Pearl’s room was finally revealed.

Lighting by Chris Petridis and Sound by Andrew Howard was marvellous – both worked in conjunction with each other to move from scene to scene, a burst of soundscape and spotlight to indicate a changing occasion.

The support cast of Allan Lyra Chang as Paul, Zoe’s, one night stand, Kathryn Adams as Lana, the archetypal mean girl and Kristen O’Dwyer as Katie, Mei’s best friend and wannabe Asian, were incredible. Both Adams and O’Dwyer moonlighted as a few of Zoe’s online dates, and boy was this scene a twist of Aussie fixes on the Asian culture.

Recent graduate from Flinders University, Elvy-Lee Quici was superbly accurate as the culturally confused teenager Mei. Her demeanour and posturing were on point and she brought a child-like attitude that portrayed Mei perfectly.

The role of Zoe was brought to the stage with a gusto only felt by a 20-something having to move back home, by Juanita Navas-Nguyen. I was truly captured by her portrayal of this character; the seemingly failure older sister, trying to keep her mother and younger sister on the same page, all the while knowing one of the families confidences.

Holding it all together, is the incomparable Fiona Choi as Pearl. Her esteemed experience in telling Asian Australian stories is at it’s peak in this performance. She is utterly believable and genuine as the mother who only wants the best for her daughters, but for them not to forget their culture and heritage in this modern world.

A wonderfully witty, truthful, poignant, and at times, provoking view of the Australian culture through the eyes of immigrants.

4.5 Stars


Lia Loves.


Lia Loves
Lia Loves
Theatre. Dance. Culture. Events. Follow her adventures as Adelaide's premier theatre buff, arts contributor, educator and ambassador!

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