Love Letters

MFF23-Do-Theatre-Love-LettersAre Australian progressive values really more liberating than China’s ultra-conservative ones? That question is at the heart of this production of Shan Cheng Ju’s Love Letters.

The plot follows the relationship between Lisa (Angel Xiao) and Twig (director Fini Liu doing double duty) over 40-plus years. Their cute meet takes place when Twig is breaking the rules and accidentally trips Lisa.

But as they grow up, their roles swap. Lisa moves to Australia and makes the most of the open culture (especially for women) in contrast to Twig’s progression into the military and then literally toeing the party line. In Australia, Lisa breaks Chinese “rules.”

Both get married and have children. Their love for and intimacy with each is the only constant in both their lives.

For a while, it looks like Lisa’s star will ascend until it turns out to be only a shooting star. Bright and captures global attention but then burns out. This is in contrast to Twig. He finishes school. Does military service. Becomes a lawyer. Gets promoted. He’s the stable and steady contrast to Lisa.

Both Xiao and Liu excel in their roles. The story depends on the actors being able to age 40 years convincingly. And I think that a woman coming to Australia made for a more interesting story than if it had been the man. Surely the gap between Chinese culture and Australian culture is broader for a woman?

Something has to be said that questions the strength of China’s traditional values. Would Lisa’s life have taken the path it did if she hadn’t moved to a Western country? Do traditional values support mental health?

The freedoms we enjoy in the West need to be balanced with the responsibilities that are cultivated in the East. If this had happened, then perhaps this love affair would have had a different ending.

Love Letters
Festival Hub: Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers, Corner Lygon & Victoria Streets, Carlton
Performance: Wednesday 11 October 2023
Season continues to 22 October 2023

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Love Letters – photo by Sinya Li

Review: Daniel G. Taylor