Michelle Law’s insatiably adorable and utterly hilarious Miss Peony is by far one of the most heartwarming theatre works of 2023.
Lily has the whole world at her feet, ready to make the move to London and live her life her way. But nothing ever goes according to plan – when Lily’s Poh Poh dies, an unexpected haunting occurs that will change both of their lives (both physical and spiritual).
After far too many attempts to get this work to the stage, audiences are finely treated to Law’s witty and gently political writing. Each character is written with a such perfect of cliche and grounded humanity that it is hard not to be engaged. Scene after scene unfolds to reveal a world that is familiar to most but with so much subtext lurking beneath.
Courtney Stewart directs the production with a wealth of whimsy and cheeky camp, veering perfectly from the over the top farce of the pageant world to the deeply emotional family bonds that bind the work. Stewart shows great restraint and whip smart pacing, allowing the performers to have somewhat free rein within the space but with very solid limitations to avoid slipping into pantomime.
Gabrielle Chan, Deborah Faye Lee, Stephanie Jack, Mabel Li, Shirong Wu and Charles Wu are a powerhouse ensemble, having far too much fun than should be allowed on stage. Each actor compliments the other with such infectious joy and great heart, picking up each offer and ensuring each moment, joke and tear lands perfectly every time.
Jonathan Hindmarsh has created a magical world for the story to unfold – sets and costumes that are as elegantly detailed as they are garish. With perfect accents and theatrical pops from Trent Suidgeest’s lighting, the designs steal the show scene after scene.
Miss Peony is nothing short of magnificent theatre – an absolute treat and a triumph.
Upstairs Theatre – Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Performance: Sunday 16 July 2023
Season continues to 30 July 2023
Information and Bookings: www.belvoir.com.au
Following the Sydney season, Miss Peony will be presented at Arts Centre Melbourne (2 – 20 August), Canberra Theatre Centre (23 – 26 August), Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong (30 August – 2 September) and Geelong Arts Centre (6 – 9 September).
Image: Belvoir Street Theatre presents Miss Peony by Michelle Law – photo by Sherry Zheng
Review: Gavin Roach