Playmate: On The Border of Things

January 19th 2018

In Australia, it can be really hard to answer questions around where we come from; what our national identity is, who we are in relation to our family, and what to make of our shared histories in a complex nation that doesn’t treat us all the same.

For the past three years, James Nguyen has been getting to know his Uncle Ai. Cong Ai Nyugen came to Australia from Vietnam to live with James’ family. He quickly moved to the outback, and all James knew was that he was picking fruit.

“This road trip is a chance to catch up with my Uncle Ai. When I was in primary school, he left to go fruit-picking. We haven’t really talked much since then. As adults, we are basically strangers and this project is an excuse to make up lost time, and just hang out as if he never left.”

‘On The Border Of Things: Part One’ lets you meet James. He casually and intimately shares the road he travelled (quite literally) in getting to know his uncle, and how exploring new parts of Australia helped him better understand Vietnam and his own family… and the pitfalls of grocery conglomerates.

It’s a talk, a bilingual performance piece, a video, and an immersion into farm life – all in a small garage in Erskineville. I can’t stress how close the whole thing is, how much James feels like a good mate afterwards, and how much you’ll learn about farming. Did you know that Vietnam is the world’s second biggest coffee grower in the world?

The migrant experience is more nuanced than the ‘first generation, second generation’ narrative. There are varied opportunities, things to let go, and things worth fighting to retain. James’ ability to play within this, and his snapshot of one experience is honest, raw, kind, and well worth seeing.


WHAT: On The Border Of Things: Part One
WHERE: PACT Theatre, 107 Railway Parade, Erskineville
WHEN: Until January 20
HOW MUCH: $15 from The PACT website

 

 

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Samantha Groth