Billed as a "live documentary theatre show", OTHER [chinese] is educational, gentle and filled with off-the-cuff humour.

A group of mostly young, mostly middle-class people of Chinese descent (born in China, Aotearoa and elsewhere) tell snippets of their own stories of cultural identity, in between sound bite screenings of the likes of Mai Chen, Lynette Forday, Mua Strickson-Pua and Manying Ip.

Earnest? Yes, but also interesting, candid, occasionally bawdy and often surprising.

In the foyer, we take off our shoes under beautiful photographic portraits of show participants by producer (and Greens candidate) Julie Zhu.


Inside the red-carpeted theatre, we first see classical Chinese dance on a low stage (sight lines are a little compromised) and Jessie McCall's montage of media representations of Chinese; symbols that have had a direct effect on show participants.

Thematically, this is a broad sampler rather than a deep well. It's like a Massive Company theatre show, but much looser, or the Auckland Museum's excellent Being Chinese in Aotearoa photographic exhibition brought to life.

Director/deviser Alice Canton emphasises that each person is different in the large, theatrically-untrained group by intermittently asking them how strongly they agree or disagree with statements such as 'chicken testicles are a delicacy' and 'Coronation Street is the best programme'. The quips are quick and clever.

'Te Tiriti o Waitangi should be New Zealand's founding immigration document' raises an interesting if hesitant discussion.

An art student neatly points out that straight white male artists are often thought to spout universal truths while everyone else is assumed to only speak to the experience of their "Other" demographic.

OTHER [chinese] risks such labelling itself - participants' experiences are presented as specifically Chinese compared to an unspoken Pakeha counterpoint - but it also belies the myth that "the Chinese" are any more homogeneous than, say, a "European" bunch of French, Hungarians and Pakeha.

OTHER [chinese] increases cross-cultural understanding (elsewhere, sometimes a solemn goal) and does so in a fun and enjoyable way.

What: OTHER [chinese]
Where & when: Loft at Q Theatre, until Saturday, September 16
Reviewer: Janet McAllister