Diana Nguyen is a very talented woman. It’s important that this statement comes first because too often shows that represent the diverse multitude of voices here in Australia become about ethnicity. And sometimes that can limit how we engage and interact with the material.
Singing 5 Ways to Disappoint Your Vietnamese Motheris essentially a musical with elements of identity and culture. It is an articulation of how we as Australians live and grow into ourselves. The show may certainly offer a glimpse into Vietnamese culture and Nguyen takes pride in explaining how to pronounce her name (and explains its history) but equally informs us that her first name (Diana) was chosen because her mother loved the Princess of Wales.
The beauty of Nguyen’s fringe show is that it is intimate, personal and takes place in a Karoke bar on Little Bourke Street. This is theatre at its best – a family affair. Singing English songs in a Korean bar with a host telling you about her relationship with her mother is quintessentially Fringe theatre.
Nguyen’s stories are interspersed with her mother’s favourites including “It’s my life”, “Macarena” and “Money,Money,Money” amongst many other classics.
Cliched? Maybe. Appropriate? Absolutely.
This show is about taking risks (audience members are expected to sing) and simultaneously acknowledging risks in exposing one’s vulnerability, especially when discussing family.
At times it seemed as though the songs dominated the stories too much, and occasionally the material seemed to linger on the safe side of exposure. However, if there is a good chance your mother is coming to see your show then perhaps that is a very wise thing to do.
The best moments were impromptu and involved high levels of audience involvement. While Nguyen has successfully created a solid structure through which to share her anecdotes, the show is still developing. Singing 5 Ways to Disappoint Your Vietnamese Mother is an immense success for a Fringe show and certainly a candidate for a future Arts Festival show.