Theatre Review: Letters Home – Blue Room Theatre (Performances through 4th October)

Letters Home is the latest theatrical work from Joe Lui. If you’ve been to a theatre production in Perth over the last few years, it’s likely you will have seen Lui’s name and face in a programme somewhere having worked as a director, writer and designer on a number of productions, including with his own company Renegade Productions. Letters Home however sees Lui taking centre stage for the first time.

A number of years ago Lui, chose not to return to his native Singapore to complete military service. This choice branded him as a criminal not only in the eyes of the government but also in the eyes of his parents. Letters Home is his response, a performative missive to his parents. Letters Home is an unflinchingly honest work, laying bare Lui’s relationship with his parents, himself and the culture he left behind.

Lui proved himself to be an engaging and charismatic performer, and was certainly forthcoming about many aspects of his life. It was also a pretty relaxed performance, and whilst it was clear parts of the work were scripted, it seemed like there was plenty of improvisation throughout the show. There were also moments where he “broke the fourth wall” so to speak, making requests of the stage manager and the bartender, with the latter getting a nice little cameo.

There are moments within Letters Home where things get a little bit dark, with Lui dealing with some weighty and confronting topics. But likewise there is an abundance of humour throughout the performance, whether it be Lui’s retelling of Chinese myths and legends; stories from his own childhood, or even poking fun at his own productions. It provided natural ebb and flow to the show, a nice balance of the serious and the profane.

Another aspect of the show I was really struck by was the set design. Even from just walking into the space I was impressed by the level of detail that had gone into designing the set. It was also good to see as the play progressed, that many of the items on display where of significance to the performance and to Lui’s story. I also liked that the production was anchored by the ritualistic act of making a “reunion” dinner. Not only was this of thematic significance, it was provided a timeline that Lui could work around.

Letters Home is an interesting production; which owes more to performative art than it does to traditional theatre. It is a thought provoking piece and highlights some of the differences between Singapore and Australian cultures; and provides a unique insight into the creative and personal background of Lui.

Letters Home is in performances at the Blue Room Theatre in Perth until October 4th. For tickets and more details head to:

The reviewer attended the performance on the 18th of September, 2014.


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.