A performance tackling the sticky issue of race relations, especially in a city like Melbourne, is a big risk.


The Store Room
Melbourne Town Players
Saturday 3 October 2009

Attract_RepelA performance tackling the sticky issue of race relations, especially in a city like Melbourne, is a big risk. It’s guaranteed that a majority of the audience will already walk into the show with pre-conceived notions of what the word ‘race’ means to them; you simply cannot live in a society like Melbourne’s and not be aware of the extent to which our community consists of people with varying cultural backgrounds.

Which is probably partly why writer/director Ming-Zhu Hii chose to present Attract/Repel at this year’s Melbourne Fringe.

This alternative, edgy piece attacks presumptions and challenges stereotypes. To borrow the terms they use to describe themselves, the talented cast consists of an Australian-born Indian-European, an ABC (Australian Born Chinese), a Ghanaian immigrant and a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) Indonesian-Chinese. The issues this cast discuss are pertinent ones. We are told stories of racist acts in both private and public realms of our society, and as a majority Caucasian audience we are directly challenged as the four performers rate their “Chinkyness” on a scale of 1-10.

In just one example of the questions posed to the audience as members of Melbourne’s society: Does it mean that someone of African heritage is more Chinese than someone of Chinese heritage because the African eats chicken feet and the Chinese person doesn’t?

Attract/Repel does rely somewhat on stereotypical visual imagery – the black African ends up in whiteface (this reference goes back decades), familiar racist name-calling language is written in white chalk over a black board, and the actors are all dressed completely in white. But most importantly the content of the show is honest, challenging and confronting. And we need more of it.


Until 10 October, 2009

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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