For three nights, the Reginald Theatre is transformed into an 8-bit side-scrolling universe, replete with glittering arrows, controller buttons and 2D grass. As much as it is unreal, it evokes the reality of my adolescence: hours spent in the virtual, escaping boredom, loneliness, and most importantly, powerlessness in a society resisting its own multiculturalism.
Except in this case, the pixelated odyssey that co-directors Sophia Chung and Mandy Chen have crafted, alongside the cast and crew who bring it to life, demands we confront, rather than flee from, stereotypes.
And confront stereotypes it does, often in the most outrageous way possible. Ping-hui Ho furiously pelting thongs at her freshly-blonde daughter, whom she mistakes for a white intruder, became an immediate highlight. Adam Torres, Tazrian Khan and Deepa Al, clad in berets and turtlenecks, elicited a sea of clicks as transracial slam poets, parodying the accused intruders of the Ethnocultural Space. Al and Khan returned as rivalrous Indian mothers, and the accompanying audio-visual, with its OTT editing and sound effects recalling Indian soaps, sent the audience into hysterics. Whether you “identify as a butterfly” or an Australian politician, whose xenophobic diatribe voices a white-noise generator called White Whisper™, no one is safe.
PoC Revue IV returns us to the cultural phenomena that dominated playground chitchat—strongly evoked in a PoC-émon opening number and a Yu-Gi-Oh drug bust. The respective directors of 2D and 3D animation, Sophia Manahan and Percival Jr Relucio, deserve a special mention for designing a retro atmosphere abundant with charm.
But the show did not succeed on charm alone. Fleshing it out were standout cast members who took their characters to the farthest extremity: threatening to projectile vomit, Simone Zhao as a severely pissed Sailor Goon shamelessly groaned down the audience aisle; Jonathan Hiquiana Taneja and Sorren Sadeli owned every skit they were in, especially their frenetic retelling of Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication through Dance Dance (February) Revolution; and Sadeli mastered a Weeb accent hearkening back to clumsily dubbed episodes of Naruto.
For all the revue’s praiseworthiness, some skits relied too heavily on stereotypes without contributing an original punchline. An audio-visual tour of Hurstville offered little more than shots of local amenities, and ‘Hey There Priyanka’, an ethnic rendition of the Plain White T’s hit, became a shopping list of Indian tropes. And as a snail slid across the stage for almost an eternity to mop up another puddle of urine, I began to question whether it was intended to buy time for a costume change. That said, through spillage and splatter, the crew should be congratulated for a technically seamless show.
Past all its checkpoints and flashing ‘Victory!’ signs, PoC Revue IV encourages us to play no other character but ourselves. Indeed, it aptly recognises that the struggle transcends pixels, for “hell hath no fury like systemic racism”. Its epic narrative is a clarion call to sharpen our swords, polish our shields, and restock on Elixirs of Patience, because it’s going to take more than a timely pee brigade to extinguish white privilege or a snail-turned-janitor to mop up white tears.