After the success of her smash hit Single Asian Female, Michelle Law returns with Belvoir’s Miss Peony 牡丹小姐, a brand new intergenerational comedy for 21st century Australia. Making its Melbourne premiere in Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio from 5 – 22 August, Law’s work invites audiences into the glitzy, glamorous and slightly-unhinged world of beauty pageants in a multilingual production featuring surtitles in three languages: English, Cantonese and Simplified Chinese.
Miss Peony 牡丹小姐 tells the story of a second-generation Chinese-Australian woman named Lily, whose grandmother was a beauty queen back in Hong Kong. She doesn’t care that times have changed and that Lily lives in a new country and a new century, but she sees that Lily is caught between worlds. To motivate Lily to reconnect with her family’s heritage, her grandmother wants her to enter the Chinese community beauty pageant; the highly competitive Miss Peony. And she won’t take no for an answer.
Law’s own experience in a real-life beauty pageant has helped inspire Lily’s character and her story in this theatre piece about identity and family.
“I entered a beauty pageant once as a teenager and won Best Personality. In a beauty pageant!” Law exclaims.
Directed by Courtney Stewart (who starred in Belvoir’s Single Asian Female and directed STC’s White Pearl), Miss Peony’s 牡丹小姐 dynamic cast is led by playwright-turned-actor Michelle Law (SBS’s Homecoming Queens), alongside Gabrielle Chan (SBS’s Hungry Ghosts, STC’s Chimerica), Jing Xuan-Chan(SBS’s The Family Law), Kaeng Chan (Eddy and Viv, Play School), Mabel Li(SBS’s The Tailings) and Shirong Wu (Cursed!).
Law’s storytelling always comes from a very personal place and her ability to create a genuine cultural experience in the theatre for all audiences is no exception when it comes to Miss Peony 牡丹小姐.
I wrote Miss Peony 牡丹小姐 with my non-English speaking grandmother in mind. I wanted to share this story about cultural and generational gaps with her, and I hope many other Chinese-speaking grandparents can share it with their children and grandchildren too. Around 5% of the Australian population has Chinese ancestry, and for more than 200 years we have been part of this nation’s history. But so few of our stories are part of Australian theatre. I can’t wait to share Miss Peony 牡丹小姐 with our communities and continue building on the history of Chinese diasporas.
While this work was meant to be staged in 2020, pre-pandemic, the time feels right now more than ever for the world to see Miss Peony牡丹小姐.
Arts Centre Melbourne presents
Miss Peony 牡丹小姐
by Michelle Law
directed by Courtney Stewart
Fairfax Studio | 5 – 22 August 2021
Tickets from artscentremelbourne.com.au