Let’s be very clear here, I am not the intended target audience for this show. Which means you need to take this review with a grain of salt. However, regardless of your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever aspect of your background you think defines you, I promise you’ll get something out of this particular theatre production. Anyway, here goes.
Back for the 2020 season of Auckland Fringe, Gemshika Chetty and Aiwa Pooamorn (Go Home Curry Muncha) address the sexualisation, fetishisation, and general grossness associated with the lived experiences of being an Asian woman in the modern Western context. The theatre version of a pop-up art exhibition back in July 2019 of the same name, it is an entire hour filled with a ton of “fuck yea’s”, “hell no’s”, and an absurd level of “oh god they went there!” from the audience.
Performed at The Basement over two nights, it’s one of those shows you definitely need to be – as a mostly cis male – just a tiny bit tipsy to get in to the groove of. Not as if that’s a bad thing; remember, this is speaking to and speaking for demographics not my own. Between the casual one-liners thrown out for shock effect, the scandalous ‘nudge-nudge-wink-wink‘ tropes, and the commentary on Asian culture, there remains this deep-seated unease with which underlines our existence in an otherwise very white, very straight, world.
What you will find are genuine stories. While, in my opinion, the stories may have been glammed up a bit and exaggerated a little for the stage, the resonating internal responses to those external triggers are just as huge and dramatic as when they’re performed on a stage. Being a man I’ve not had the same opportunity to be subjected to a similar level of treatment, I can nonetheless sympathise in their ordeal. To be fair, I also question whether if all of the issues presented on that stage weren’t this explicitly loud and confronting, would the white guys with the yellow fetish even notice?
I should say at this point, that all three performers are exceptional, and have a boldness in not only speaking out, but also in so public a statement they’ve created. Chetty, perhaps with the most amount of theatre experience, also has the most amount of stage presence. At the same time, there’s power in the understated deadpan of theatre newcomer Elaine Chun. While simultaneously Ellie Lam’s performance channels and straddles the line of the everyday Kiwi and the Asian female.
Recognising the trope of the meek, subtle, and submissive Asian, they’ve dared to break out of a mold set on them by Western society. Certainly, I don’t want to be part of the ‘model minority‘, that silent ‘other’ hiding below the racial tensions of our society. While I can’t identify with parts that are dedicated to the other half our species, the cultural poignancy struck a nerve; there are definite moments where my internal cringe meter went through the roof via shared cultural experiences.
Yet here’s the thing: “The model minority stereotype reinforces the illusion that racism is no longer a problem … it promotes the notion of … a meritocratic society that accords equal opportunity to all, regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation.” That’s from a paper published last year by researchers. And all of us POC know how bullshit that entire understanding is.
So it’s problematic, and they’re calling it out. And that’s not even getting deep into the sex stuff. It’s definitely not a family friendly show, I can tell you that much. Cam girls, Asian fetish, the whole nine yards. I won’t ruin the whole show for you, but at one point there involved some feet rubbing action.
Sadly, by the time you read this review, you’ll have already missed this show. But the cyclical nature of the theatre world and the ever-dominating white male in our society means there will never run out of stories like those shared in Have You Ever Been With An Asian Womxn.
And at the end of the day, it’s an hour filled with a lot of laughs, a lot of cringe, and whole lotta “FUCK YES”. In an interview with Villanesse, Chetty expresses the want for people to recognise their right in saying “please fuck off” (my paraphrase) towards people who’re being disrespectful. I didn’t get the all clear until a couple years ago to do that. It’s been life changing, and I thoroughly wish for those who attended the show, this is your permission.
Preach it, sisters.