Man in a Suitcase review

by Sally Blundell / 01 September, 2012
<em>Man in a Suitcase</em> is a bleak, black, darkly funny study in dislocation, says Sally Blundell.
Helene Wong, Ji Zhou and Stan Chan star in Lynda Chanwai-Earle's 'Man in a Suitcase', directed by Joseph Graves


It was brutal, gruesome and darkly absurd: the 2006 killing of Chinese language student Wan Biao, whose semi-decapitated body was found strangled, knifed and stuff ed in a suitcase in the Waitemata Harbour. In the subsequent trial, Justice Priestley told the jury not to let any views about Chinese students and immigration “cloud their judgment of the facts”. In Man in a Suitcase, Lynda Chanwai-Earle, a fourth-generation Chinese New Zealander, explores these views through a fictionalised account of this wildly inept extortion attempt set within the wider context of the “Asian” diaspora.

The annual intake of young language students, the so-called “little emperors” marched across the world for a double immersion in adulthood and English, is represented by doomed Chinese exchange student Wen Lin (Ji Zhou). Young and shy (and gay), he swings convincingly between teenage bravado and boyish reserve. In contrast is fourth-generation Chinese New Zealander Amy Tung (JJ Fong). Engaged to Wen Lin’s homestay “brother” Stuart (well-meaning yet culturally oblivious, as finely played by Harry McNaughton), Tung is confident, feisty, straining against her parents’ disapproval of her relationship with a “gweilo” (foreign devil). Framing the story is Myanmar refugee Kauki-paw, a would-be journalist, now a hotel cleaner. Brilliantly performed by Katlyn Wong, Kauki-paw moves from cutesy smiling “Asian” girl to appreciative refugee (“No frogs, no crickets, no guns”), exposing the deep-set insecurity behind the easy stereotypes: the cash-cow English language student, the worried but ambitious parents, the street criminals as presented here by Shi Li’s drug dealing Pete and Zhiwen Zhao’s sexually insecure Kim.

This sense of displacement is conveyed through the minimal set by Gu Minwen and the pooled lighting by Joe Hayes. Characters appear often fleetingly, disengaged, isolated on the wide stage. The use of subtitles, projected onto a plain black panel in English and Mandarin, endorses this sense of cultural isolation. After a run of certain crowdpleasers, Christchurch’s Court Theatre has pulled off an impressive coup in this collaboration with the Peking University Institute of World Theatre and Film in Beijing (three of the actors are from China). Although references to the Christchurch earthquakes are an unnecessary conceit, Man in a Suitcase, directed by Joseph Graves, artistic director of the Beijing institute, is a bleak, black, darkly funny study in dislocation.

MAN IN A SUITCASE, by Lynda Chanwai-Earle, directed by Joseph Graves, Court Theatre, Christchurch, until September 1.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Complaints against Ministry for Vulnerable Children double, call for watchdog
76953 2017-07-26 08:02:47Z Social issues

Complaints against Ministry for Vulnerable Childre…

by Phil Pennington

Formal complaint numbers hit 917 last year, a near doubling from 2012, as calls mount for an independent investigation body to monitor them.

Read more
Work visas for New Zealand hit an all-time high
76950 2017-07-26 07:41:55Z Economy

Work visas for New Zealand hit an all-time high

by Mei Heron

The number of work visas issued in New Zealand has hit an all-time high and the number will keep rising, according to the government.

Read more
Why Paula Bennett is trouble for the National Party
76812 2017-07-26 00:00:00Z Politics

Why Paula Bennett is trouble for the National Part…

by Graham Adams

With the solo-mum-to-Cabinet humblebrag getting old, and not enough attention paid to her portfolios, the Deputy PM is now a liability for National.

Read more
Smuggled stories of totalitarianism from North Korea
76852 2017-07-26 00:00:00Z Books

Smuggled stories of totalitarianism from North Kor…

by James Robins

The Accusation has sparse and simple stories of ordinary people caught up in North Korea’s regime.

Read more
Kiwi experts zero in on new possible cause of rheumatic fever
76629 2017-07-26 00:00:00Z Health

Kiwi experts zero in on new possible cause of rheu…

by Catherine Woulfe

Experts are starting to rethink the causes of rheumatic fever.

Read more
A ride-on mower made me the man I've always wanted to be
76810 2017-07-26 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

A ride-on mower made me the man I've always wanted…

by Greg Dixon

Aucklander-gone-countryman Greg Dixon fulfills his lifelong obsession: owning a ride-on mower.

Read more
Media warned over 'carte blanche' use of social media posts
76909 2017-07-25 13:31:44Z Social issues

Media warned over 'carte blanche' use of social me…

by Max Towle

“Just because it’s viral, doesn’t mean it should be broadcast as news.”

Read more
Win a double pass to The Dinner
76907 2017-07-25 12:21:03Z Win

Win a double pass to The Dinner

by The Listener

The Dinner is based on the international best-seller by Herman Koch, which follows two successful couples over one evening.

Read more