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'Laurinda' opens at Melbourne Theatre Company

Anna Louey, Diana Nguyen and Annie Louey at the event. Image by Heath Warwick.

Events are back and it was an absolute pleasure to attend the Opening Night of the new play 'Laurinda', based on the novel by Alice Pung.

Co-adapted by Diana Nguyen and Petra Kalive, the story is set in the late 90s but with themes that are so relatable today. The protagonist Lucy Lam receives a scholarship to attend a prestigious girls' school dominated by privileged, caucasian students. I recently read the book while travelling on my first international trip since the pandemic hit. I devoured it within the eight-hour flight to Singapore. What I loved seeing was how key scenes had been selected from the book and featured on stage, some scenes were merged/altered and others were dropped.

Much of the humour comes from the fact Asian actors get to play white characters from the book. It gives Asian actors more work (fantastic!) while putting a meta-twist on issues like cultural appropriation.

Language is another striking element of the play. Large chunks of dialogue are in Vietnamese, which I don't speak. It's a beautiful little nugget for the Vietnamese diaspora to enjoy, while the rest of us still understand the context and can even laugh along at times.

Since I know Diana as a close friend from comedy, I could see her personality, personal experiences and her entire body of work shining through in the play.

At times I was reminded of 'Phi and Me', the web series Diana created, also starring Chi Nguyen who is acting in 'Laurinda' and provided translations for the play. The dancing and music even reminded me of the 'Dancing Diana' brand that's garnered a cult following on socials.

As an Asian-Australian performer it gave me so much inspiration and insight into what's possible. Not everyone is going to love the play but that's the nature of all art. You just have to find the people who are willing to listen and get on board.

Annie with other audience members after the show. Image by Heath Warwick.

I was having a candid chat after the show with one of the MTC staff who remarked that they had never seen so many 'Nguyen's on the list of ticket holders. This is incredible news and I hope the list is stacked with Asian names every night.

I hope that by buying tickets to the show, people can send a message to those in power that we want more stories like this. We're hungry for representation and we won't wait a second longer.

Also, we need lots more Asian-Australian stories so that people can stop thinking that I was involved in the making of 'Laurinda'. Because I wasn't. Wrong Asian. Sorry (not sorry).

Laurinda runs until 10 September at MTC Southbank. Tickets via the MTC website. Under 30s receive a 50% discount.


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