Reviews //

POC Revue 2023: ‘The Family Reunion’

The very universality of emotion, and vulnerability, was the sentimental zenith of this revue. The concept of storytelling through common ethnic experiences made this year’s POC Revue an affectionate one to watch.

Graphics by Kath Thomas

POC Revue 2023: The Family Reunion welcomed us in for its opening night on Thursday 11 May. As its title suggests, the performance centred around concepts of family, though in ways far beyond the nuclear.

As Chloe Singleton explains in her director’s note, “this show is a love letter to our cultures and our foundations. It is a love letter to our families, the ones we are born into and the ones we choose for ourselves,” and to which she began the opening act, “from our family to yours, we hope you enjoy the show.” 

Indeed, like the ethnic concept of family, the revue was presented with sincerity and truthfulness – its love was not always direct but often suggestive, subtle, and playful, just like those from ethnocultural backgrounds where love is shy. 

At its crux, The Family Reunion confronted the intersectionalities of modern, ethnic life within a society influenced by queerness, internet language, and white expectations. The cast explored a modern ethnic diaspora, separate from the immigrant stories of our parents and grandparents. Instead, the growing distance between ‘FOB mentality’ and modern Australia represents a migration from cultural traditions, to homogenous norms founded by the internet, art, and a newly educated generation. 

This contrasting diaspora formed the revue’s exposition – older generation parents mocked their younger folk’s mentalities and internet addictions from the Reginald Theatre’s mezzanine. Amidst the remarks on forgotten languages, new silly phrases, and self-absorption, the cast shone light on subtle truths about ethnic families. That is, the culture of judgement and high expectations vicariously placed upon youth. We laughed through the glorification of law degrees and the undiagnosed mental illnesses shrugged off as intergenerational norms. Their blame-shifts left us guilt tripped by their miseducation; as we were reminded of our privilege as Australian-raised ethnics within the university. 

The revue’s standout skits referenced political, racial issues; which provoked guttural laughter from the audience. In a dark meditation sequence, an oriental-appropriating, calming voice (Franco Luis) guided us through affirmations with the sounds of ‘white noise’;

“Are you working hard, or hardly working?” 

‘Thanks for the warning, officer!” 

(The bridge of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ plays) 

Another skit parodied a cult circle summoning; each member (Angel Tan, Adi Rao and Gina Lee)  chanting star signs and sacrificing their Doc Martens, proclaiming the deities of Boygenius, to let a queer Socialist Alternative activist (Taylah Cooper) spawn;

“Hey, are you interested in learning about anti-capitalist ideas today?” 

In an accumulation of queer and BIPOC references, the first act closed with a frankly awesome ballroom performance to Beyoncé’s masterpiece: Alien Superstar lead by Kairu Wang. The theatre’s energy was alive and buzzing as the show reached its climax. 

By the intermission, The Family Reunion had proven itself as a genuine collection of personal experiences from its ethnic cast. Intimate skits were most memorable and comedic, as its truthfulness left audiences confronted with cultural stereotypes; to which our instinctive response was laughter. 

The utilisation of the theatre’s mezzanine and makeshift projection screen was clever, and at times meta, though the cast truly shone when stripped bare of technology. Authentic sounds of voice echoes amidst the theatre, whispers behind side stage curtains, and harmonious singing uninterrupted by microphones were where real performance was impactful. The second act certainly honoured the masterful, politically provocative ideas embedded within the first. 

Standout performances were firstly an imitation (voiced by Adi Rao) of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth – instead being ‘POC Planet’. The commentary on Western Sydney and eshays (played by Angel Tan and Phoenix Firdaus) brought me back home for a second; confronting the sensitivities of low socioeconomic stereotypes with comedy. The scenario felt all too real – eshays haunting train stations and racially abusing innocent women (played by Shekinah Dhedheya) . It was refreshing to hear POC humour and experiences embedded within the politically divisive history and culture of Greater Sydney’s suburbs. 

Though perhaps most comedic was the POC sleepover skit (with Victoria Georges, Pranjal Gongal, Gina Lee, and Angel Tan); the horrors of white people homes where shoes are laid on beds, food is eaten in bedrooms, and sheets are slept in outside clothing. The constant contradictions between white society and ethnic expectations were masterful expressions of thoughts, moods, and instinctive preservations of cultural stereotypes. 

By the denouement, the revue concluded harmoniously. As actors gathered on stage, in positions resembling a family photo, they spoke in native tongues on the phone – a subtle motif to the phone call exposition. Despite its different expressions, the sincerity of “I love you” was universally felt. Indeed, the very universality of emotion, and vulnerability, was the sentimental zenith of this revue. The concept of storytelling through common ethnic experiences made this year’s POC Revue an affectionate one to watch.