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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

K-Box (Malthouse Theatre) - 90 minutes without interval

Identity is the theme of a dramatic comedy about a 34-year-old who is trying to get a sense of self.

Korean-born Lucy (Susanna Qian) was adopted by her quintessential Australian parents – Shirley (Maude Davey) and George (Syd Brisbane) – when she was four.

She was brought up with much love in a small country town.

Now, out of the blue, having thrown in her job and her boyfriend, she turns up again on her parents’ doorstep.

Photos by Phoebe Powell

Lucy simply wants to chill, take the time to reset and get her mojo back.

She finds that her parents have converted her old bedroom into an arts and craft room. They have gotten rid of her bed and now have to set her up on the couch.

More than that, they appear to have ditched the stuff she kept in a large, brown cardboard box, which Lucy reclaims as her “safe” place.

The box, which becomes a character in the play with its own name, contained her memories.

With her highly opinionated mother convinced something is wrong and both her mum and her dad encouraging her to see a doctor, Lucy seeks refuge in the empty box.

Then one day Lucy invites home a travelling K-pop star, Kim Han (Jeffrey Liu).

Kim Han is the first Asian “boy” she has shown an interest in.

Half Chinese American, Kim Han has a strong sense of pride about his Korean heritage.

He turns Lucy’s head and causes her to think about her own history and her all but non-existent links to the country where she was born.

The family’s only nod to Korea is when they wear traditional Korean clothing – known as hanbok – one day a year, but that is just a little game they play.

Before this is over, Lucy will learn more about the rift her adoption caused and will fall out with her father.

Chaos is the one constant in K-Box, which focuses on the building blocks of our existence.

There is underlying trauma and dislocation in Ra Chapman’s writing.

K-Box, which she started writing six years ago, was inspired by the fellow adoptees she met, interviewed and became friends with.

The piece is punctuated by dramatic musical stings. The sound designer is Marco Cher-Gibard.

Laugh aloud funny, the undercurrent is loss, sadness and anger.

Each of the cast members manages to capture the divergent sides to their respective characters with aplomb.

Chapman and director Bridget Balodis have ensured they all have their times to shine.

They bring to the fore “big” personalities.

Davey is larger than life, Brisbane salt of the Earth. Qian captures Lucy’s search for meaning, while as Kim Han, Liu is looking to escape years of rigid confinement.

Their characterisations are dogmatic and intractable. They butt heads, leading to ongoing tension, which is the mainstay of this production.

K-Box is an enjoyable watch, which opens up conversation about the rights and wrongs of transracial adoption.

It is playing at Beckett Theatre at Malthouse Theatre until 18th September, 2022.


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