16 Feb 2015

Under the same moon - a new play launches Chinese New Year

From Voices, 3:30 pm on 16 February 2015

Hweiling Ow performs solo Under the same moon BATS Theatre Wellington photo courtesy Renee Liang
Hweiling Ow performs Under the same moon at BATS Theatre in Wellington. Photo courtesy of Renee Liang.

All we can hope for is life enough to see
that though a thousand leagues apart,
we all look on the same moon.
- Song Dynasty poet Su Shi (1036-1011)

Playwright and producer Renee Liang was flat out again, this time opening her new play at the beautifully renovated BATS Theatre in Wellington. With pack-in happening around us, Renee told me that both of her Chinese grandmothers were the inspiration for her newest play. Under the same moon launched with both the Fringe Festival and the Chinese New Year Festival in Wellington, 2015.

Under the same moon is described as a heartfelt comedy about daughters and their wayward mothers. It follows the unexpected visit by elderly Porpor Grace to her granddaughter's wedding in New Zealand. The incorrigible and loveable character Porpor (who often chats to her friend the moon – yes, the one in the night sky) has escaped her rest-home in Hong Kong and hopped on the first plane to come here – much to daughter Lorna's horror.

The title for the play comes from a poem by Song Dynasty poet, Su Shi. The poem resonated enough to inspire Renee, along with her grandmother from Hong Kong attending her sister Roseanne's wedding a decade ago. Weddings always seem to provide a good climate for the inter-generational conflicts and resolutions that come out of many major family gatherings.

Renee also remembers her grandmother giving away her gold jewellery to her granddaughters, as well as telling them stories of days gone by. It struck Renee that memories were also being passed on with the gold jewellery and in many ways her grandmother's memories became Renee's greatest inheritance.

This is a one-hander running for 60 minutes. Hweiling Ow is the solo actor performing all 10 (plus) characters on stage alone. Hweiling Ow is better known for her role in Flat 3, a webseries comedy directed, written and produced by Renee's sister, filmmaker Roseanne Liang.

Director of Under the same moon Theresa Adams tells me she loved working with Hweiling because of the challenge of defining each of the 10 characters enough for the audience to follow the storyline. Excited by the material in Under the same moon, Theresa tells me that the play also struck a chord for her, in the universal theme of family scattered across the globe.

There is much more to us than just lions and dragons and opera, which is all fabulous, but there is so much more to us.

Organiser of the Chinese New Year Festival Linda Lim says that Under the same moon is an opportunity for the Festival to create a platform to showcase Chinese artists like playwright Renee Liang and actor Hweling Ow. Linda tells me that it's great that the envelope is being pushed as to expectations of what comes out of the Chinese community.

Under the same moon plays until the 21 February at BATS Theatre and the production will also perform in Auckland with the Lantern Festival and Auckland Fringe at the Maidment Theatre, 24 February to 7 March 2015.  As part of a "sister act" in the theme of family and love, Roseanne Liang's feature film My wedding and other secrets will screen during Chinese New Year and Valentine's week at Nga Taonga Sound and Vision at the Film Archives, Wellington.

Playwright and Producer Renee Liang with AET Linda Lim Chinese New Year Festival
Playwright and producer Renee Liang with AET Linda Lim (Chinese New Year Festival)