The Opening Night for Monkey Baa’s The Peasant Prince went off like a firecracker, ushering in the beginning of a big journey for this story as we task ourselves with sharing it to the next generation of young Australians.
Li Cunxin was there to offer his misty-eyed congratulations to cast, crew and creatives. The momentousness of what it must be like for him to watch his life story unfold in our intimate Darling Harbour theatre was not lost on anybody in the foyer afterwards, as we gathered around afterwards, beaming yet simultaneously in awe of the man himself.
I was especially anxious that my portrayal of his Niang met his expectations. She is such a central figure in his life – the ever present voice who encouraged him to follow his dreams, the heart behind his search for freedom and inspiration in his pursuit for greatness. Having only been told that she had recently passed away, I hoped that I did- and will continue to do – justice to her memory.
My own mother was my Opening Night guest. Make no mistake, she is no “Niang” to my “Li Cunxin.” Her maternal demands on me were along the lines of obey, achieve, make money, and don’t forget to look after me with the money you make. Still, I wanted her to be there on this night of story that traces its roots back to the land of our ancestry. Where the hunger and hardship that she was taught to avoid her whole life pervades like thick dust. Where the two of us recognise each other in the telling and receiving as mother and child because it is ultimately about the redemptive love of family. The story is a bridge across the many things that have divided us because I am able to show her what will always keep us connected propels me forward in the imaginative act of someone else’s story. Despite our fractures, her love continues to feed me.