REVIEW: Roots at Uxbridge

Amanda Grace-Leo in Roots. Photo supplied.

Title: Roots
Written by: Oliver Chong
Directed by: Chye-Ling Huang
Performed by: Amanda Grace-Leo

Uxbridge Arts & Culture was almost packed to the brim last Friday night for the opening night of Roots.

The production — a bilingual solo show – was the first time Proudly Asian Theatre had branched out from central city suburbs and people turned out in droves to watch.

While I’d seen a solo show before, I’d never seen a bilingual performance and my curiosity was piqued from the beginning.

The script, originally fully in Mandarin, was altered by Proudly Asian Theatre to alternate between Mandarin and English to make it more accessible to New Zealand audiences.

Surtitles were projected onto a black screen in Chinese and English — a move which took some getting used to but not unlike watching a movie scene in a different language with subtitles.

It was the premiere of Roots in New Zealand — and the first time which playwright Oliver Chong has granted permission for the play to be performed by someone other than himself. The gender of the main character was also changed to reflect Singaporean-Kiwi actress Amanda Grace-Leo.

The performance began with three jugs of rice poured across cymbals and scattered on the floor — perhaps a symbolic representation of the way our family roots scatter across towns and countries through generations.

It follows the journey of the main character, Hsu Hsien, and her quest to find her familial identity in the cultural confusion of Singapore. She arrives in China to reclaim her past, but ends up stumbling upon more questions than answers.

As someone with Maori ancestry that I have only vague details of, I could relate to the character’s interest in knowing where she comes from and where her roots lie. It’s simply human nature to want to feel like you belong.

But in the end, as they say, home is where the heart is.

  • Catch Roots at Q Theatre this week from Thurs 1 March — Sat 3 March at 6:30pm.