After COVID-19 restrictions curtailed her first two programs for the Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival, artistic director Annette Shun Wah has good reason to be excited about the 2022 line-up unveiled today.
As well as bringing a number of international artists to Adelaide for the October 20 to November 6 festival – including New York-based Singaporean pianist Margaret Leng Tan and Korean alternative K-pop group Leenalchi – she’s also managed to reprogram several shows that had to be cancelled just a month out from last year’s event due to interstate border closures.
Among the latter is Action Star, a world premiere solo theatre performance by Australian-Vietnamese actor and martial arts performer Maria Tran, who has forged a successful career in martial arts films in Asia. The show – fuelled with stunts and live martial arts – shares Tran’s story, including her struggle against gender stereotypes and racism.
“The interesting thing is that we’ve always talked about how in Australia her talent has largely not been appreciated and it’s really quite ironic that she left Australia and relocated to the United States at the end of last year, but after only six months or so she came back because she was cast in this new series being shot in Sydney,” Shun Wah says, referring to the new serialised television crime drama Last King of the Cross.
Also reprogrammed from 2021 are The Long Walk, a dance performance paying homage to the Chinese gold miners who trekked from Robe to the Victorian goldmines in the 1850s (the work will be streamed via real-time drone recording from Robe), and The Demon, a theatre work by Michael Mohammed Ahmad, author of 2019 Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel The Lebs.
The Demon is said to combine a contemporary Australian crime thriller and magical realism with a Lynchian twist. Shun Wah explains that it centres on two detectives trying to track down a suspected killer. The woman – a Chinese-Australian street fighter – draws them to Burrangong, scene of New South Wales’ 1860-61 Lambing Flat Riots targeting Chinese gold miners.
“It asks if something ugly and unresolved from our history is causing the ongoing frictions that we have today… it’s a work that’s being made with a stellar cast of theatre-makers. It’s very much physical theatre, with lots of dark moods and mystery and action as well.”
Shun Wah is especially excited by the music line-up for this year’s OzAsia, one of the highlights of which will be Bridge of Dreams – a collaboration between Australian and Indian musicians led by saxophonist Sandy Evans. It will see 22 musicians take to the stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre, including the 17-member, all-female “super-collective” Sirens Big Band, Indian singer Shubha Mudgal and tabla player Aneesh Pradhan.
Margaret Leng Tan, known as a virtuoso of the toy piano and last seen in Adelaide at the 2016 OzAsia Festival, is bringing her music and storytelling show Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep to the Dunstan Playhouse, while the contemporary music line-up is headlined by a night of “alt-pop, funk and rap” at the Convention Centre featuring Korea’s Leenalchi (seen below in a national tourism commercial) and Australian-Korean hip-hop group 1300.
“They are this intriguing mixture of contemporary pop and funk with pansori,” Shun Wah says of Leenalchi, explaining that pansori is a traditional form of Korean music. “It is that really deeply emotionally-driven vocalisation, so to hear that within the context of contemporary funk-pop music is a really interesting combination.”
In addition to the popular Moon Lantern Trail, which will return over four days on the opening weekend of OzAsia, there are a number of other family-friendly offerings in the festival program. These include free outdoor event The Rat Catcher of Angkor Wat – a large-scale musical theatre and puppetry event based loosely on the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin but set in the year 2222 and featuring psych rockers The Cambodian Space Project.
Korean company GRUEJARM Productions will make their Australian premiere with the touring show SNAP, to be presented at Her Majesty’s theatre for four performances on the festival’s opening weekend.
“It’s a very theatrical show with magic and illusion,” Shun Wah says of SNAP, which also includes mime and clowning. “This is going to be great for families… it’s presented in a very theatrical context with music and lighting and costumes. It transports you into this magical world.”
In all, the 2022 OzAsia Festival will feature around 50 free and ticketed events and exhibitions, including the return of The Comedy Comedy Special line-up of Asian-Australian comedians, three exhibitions in the Festival Centre’s Festival Theatre foyers themed around “Women at Work” (in response to 9 to 5 The Musical, playing in the theatre at the same time), and State Theatre Company SA’s previously announced family comedy Single Asian Female (by playwright Michelle Law).
Family is also at the heart of journalist Jane Hutcheon’s show Lost in Shanghai, which began with her journey to reconstruct the story of her mother Beatrice’s early life in a Eurasian family in pre-Communist China – elements of which Beatrice had never spoken about. Shun Wah describes it as a theatrical storytelling show, developed with co-directors Tasnim Hossain and William Yang and featuring “an enormous treasure trove of photographs”.
“It’s a really fascinating look into that world of pre-Communist China, with all the photographs but all the mysteries about what happened to her mother, who was quite young when her mother, Jane’s grandmother, died.”
OzAsia’s writing and ideas program will take place on the final weekend of the festival, with writer, comedian and “food enthusiast” Jennifer Wong as curator. Its full program won’t be released until next month, but we do know that the popular Lunch on the Riverbank will return – this time featuring Adelaide author (and InReview contributor) Katherine Tamiko Arguile, whose food memoir Meshi was published earlier this year.
The 2022 OzAsia Festival will take place from October 20 until November 6.
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