Life changing show

A reading light in the audience.

November 2009 – I wandered through these laneways for the first time in my life. In the car from the airport, my best friend who I have come to visit gives me the rundown of the grid; I repeat after her: King, William, Queen, Elizabeth, Swanston, Russell, Exhibition, Spring; Flinders, Flinders Lane, Collins, Little Collins, Bourke, Little Bourke, Lonsdale, Little Lonsdale, La Trobe…

It was not my first solo trip overseas, but it was the first real solo holiday. Romanticised ideas of chats with the attractive person next to me on the plane, stealing glances in an art gallery, cigarettes on degraves street while I journal or read The Unbearable Lightness of Being for the 27th time on a tram.

Back in drama school in Singapore, I have heard all about theatre in Melbourne. And one evening, I sat alone as the house lights went down – and in the rain, a fish fell from the sky.

July 2021 – Kat and Morgan invites me to be a part of Life Changing Show. The brief: a series of performances at La Mama by well-known Melbourne theatre makers about a performance they witnessed that moved them deeply. I looked at their long list of artists. Legends. But wait – when was the last time I stood on stage in a physical theatre and performed?

December 2009 – My mother Skypes me urgently. The letter of offer from VCA arrived. We had a deadline to accept it. Did you have the meeting with the school? How did it go? So, do you want it? How would we afford it though? This was never in the plans? I paid a $100 fee when I put the application in as an investment into the possibility to know where I stood. I wasn’t planning on my family being in debt so I can be an international student. Ok but if money wasn’t an issue, do you want it? Yes, to have the opportunity to live alone, to live in another country, to continue to work out the theatre I want to make.

You know how you leave drama school knowing the theatre you don’t want to make, not the theatre you do want to make?

She rang me back 2 days later and said – I got the down payment. We will take the bank loan for the rest of it. If this is what you feel you need to get started, then this is what I will provide.

February 2010 – 35kg of a suitcase, I arrive back in Melbourne. My copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being with me, and a vague sense of what being an animateur would be.

February 2020 – I watch as Singapore responds to a global pandemic. In a month, we would close our borders. I shuffle my project plans. In the momentum of the last ten years, I had been building up to this moment. Coming full circle, I was meant to be back in Singapore working on my first major project back there with Drama Box – which incidentally was where I started working in theatre – long before drama school.

September 2020 – The Little Old Cooking Club That Could wrapped in Singapore on my father’s birthday. For 20 days he picked up and delivered home cooked meals prepared by 4 seniors over 60 and 6 children aged 9-12 years old as part of my homecoming project. He made friends with every one of these community participants I had only met online. Each one of them cooked an extra serve to share with him each time. My mother cooked the first meal to kick it all off. My parents – the real artists.

For the love of theatre, I have told intimate stories in photobooths in train stations, on pontoons and boats on the birrarung – yarra yarra, it flows it flows – I have driven the full circumference of naarm the bay twice in two days; sat in markets with copious amounts of coffee. I plucked a thousand beansprouts and shared my dinner table a hundred times over. Eleven years and a few different lifetimes; a real-life divorce and several art marriages; home on the north of the river and the occasional southside jaunt; strangers becoming friends becoming lovers becoming no one.

But today, December 2021 – I am performing here at La Mama for the first time ever. 

Whenever I arrive back in Melbourne from the airport, I am always struck by how blue the sky is here. One of my favourite sights – especially amplified by the 5km radius restrictions – is the city lights when you’re driving along the Westgate. Or the sunset from 18 Claremont St in North Coburg, preferably with a martini in hand.

November 2009 – Lunchtime, I found a cosy French cafe in a lane way. I finished my sandwich and prepare to leave. I stood at the doorway and there – gasp – golf balls fell from the sky.

The sound of a bubble machine turned on.

Score from Life Changing Show as part of War-Rak/Banksia, La Mama Theatre’s re-opening weekend; 10 December 2021.

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