The Gate to Paradise

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Reviewed by Brent Cabatan

The Gate to Paradise, an original play about Chinese immigration, was produced by One Tree Theatre Company in September. It was part of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival at the Main Theatre of the Lithuanian Club in North Melbourne.

Cher Coad–who directed last year’s renowned play The Pillowman– teamed up with esteemed Chinese-Australian playwright Xiaoqi Ding to direct, as well as help write the script for this show.

This show was first written and performed more than twenty years ago in Melbourne and Sydney. Ding recalled that, “the audience gave long-lasting standing ovations to the performers with tears in their eyes when the performance finished…”

The performance has been given a creative overhaul during its twenty year hiatus and will have the original story, just panning the original characters stories twenty years later. This is an effective way of keeping the play relevant, but at the same time keeping the original story mostly intact. This allows the audience to gain knowledge about the past, but also see how these past occurrences are affecting people now.

This play had an interesting take on Chinese Immigration and made an attempt to be more relevant and relatable with the times. The cast was sprinkled with amateur actors and according to Coad most of them were busy young university students, with the exception of some of the older characters.

The young actors were a major part of the performance and did a decent job considering none of these students were theater majors, except for the actor who played the younger version of George–one of the characters who immigrated to Australia.

These thespians brought a refreshing exuberance to each scene and while at times some interactions seemed a bit forced and overacted, it was obvious every actor or actress had worked hard to play their parts as effectively as possible.

It was the performer who played the younger version of George who gave the most captivating performance, showing his experience and ability to make the audience feel emotion. His story-line was the most intricate and interesting and the actor gave this character life and created an opportunity for the audience to truly relate to his story through his adequate acting.

This particular actor was the only member among the younger cast that had a theatre background, and his talent really showed.

Twenty actors from the auditions were chosen and were trained for about fours hours a week for three months and then had a month and a half for rehearsals for the show, according to Coad.

The Fringe Festival was only able to allow Coad an hour for the performance on each day so she has decided to break the play into four acts, this performance being the first two and then the next two being released later in the year.

“It will be a perfect storm after this years show for Chinese Theatre to launch their identity in Australia,” Coad proudly stated.


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