"I Fuck A Lot"
I recently saw Michelle Law’s play “Single Asian Female” at the Belvoir. After the show, I decided not to review it. It was such an intimate portrayal of three Chinese women – bound by blood – and their struggles (and joys) that immigration to Australia caused them, that I felt shy to comment on them. The play was often funny, but there was an underlying pain to it – and while I recognised it, it most likely resonated with the Asian audience much than everyone else.
I don’t feel the same shyness with Michelle Lee’s play “Going Down”, which is currently running at the Wharf by the Sydney Theatre Company. It centres around Natalie Wang, an Australian-Chinese Writer who googles “Am I first or second generation” at night and has her first novel published, Banana Girl. Her set is the Melbourne hipster scene and she has no, absolutely no interest in heartfelt immigration stories. What she wants is cock. And what she writes about, is her experience with cock. Banana Girl is a sex memoir that doesn’t hold back – unfortunately, a few months after its publications, it threatens to become a shelf warmer. A new book must be written, she decides. And she wants it to be even bolder than her debut. 100 Cocks in 100 Nights is the envisioned title – and Natalie gets started on her research immediately.
All could be good if it wasn’t for Lu Lu Jayadi. The young Australian-Indonesian writer does exactly what the audience wants: she publishes heartfelt immigration memoirs about her mother, her father, her culture – and everyone loves them. She represents everything Natalie hates – but there is the ironic twist: Lu Lu loves Banana Girl. She promises Natalie to put her in touch with her publisher and Natalie – suddenly gripped with self-doubt – tries to conceptualise another book, an “ethnic” book about her family, about her mother’s risky flight from Laos to Thailand to Australia. Obviously, that doesn’t go quite as planned.
There is much in this play that’s hilariously funny – from the big scenes with Natalie and her twentysomething hipster friends to the small ones that depict the life on Melbourne’s streets accurately. Natalie is portrayed by the excellent Catherine Davies, who puts her whole body in action. She kicks, she runs, she screams, she fucks, she vomits, she cries – and she’s horribly annoying in her Gen Y self-righteousness. Her friends Matt (Paul Blenheim) and Tilda (Naomi Rukavina) are only marginally more likeable – while they all live in their inner city bubble, those two at least are able to snap out of it when it’s necessary. Both actors play a whole variety of roles – and so do Jenny Wu, who plays Lu Lu Jayadi and Natalie’s mother, and Josh Price, who seems to pick up every single role that’s left in the ensemble, which includes a barista, a librarian and several fuck-buddies of Natalie.
“People from migrant communities are expected to tell stories that are representative of that experience,” says playwright Michelle Lee. It ties in with the question so many people have to endure again and again: “But where are you really from?” Natalie Wang is tired of this. And she has every right to be. Go forth and write 100 Cocks in 100 Nights. And do it proudly.
Spoiler: She doesn’t write her book. But she finds her way.
“Going Down” is on until May 5 at the Wharf 2 Theatre. Tickets: Under 30 are $37, Concession are $42. More information here.
Image credit: Brett Boardmann / Sydney Theatre Company