A DEAL: Director’s Notes
“I am a warrior so that my son can be a shopkeeper so that his son can be a poet.” This famous quote from John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, was used as the preface of A Deal. It is a perfect summary of the history of modern China as well as the family stories of many individuals.
My parents grew up in absolute poverty. Mum’s mum was illiterate. Dad’s Dad was climbing mountains to pick herbal medicine when he was five. Everything was about survival in that age. Mum had to drop out of school to work in a factory when she was sixteen. Dad was the first in the family to attend university. Their generation started to accumulate unprecedented wealth thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms launched in 1978. My parents sent me to study in England when I was sixteen and now I am a theatre director working in Sydney. My education is a gift my family gave me. It took generations and generations to prepare for this precious gift.
As a Chinese person living overseas, or more precisely, outside the Great Firewall of China, I have access to all kinds of uncensored information. I understand that China's burgeoning power is transforming the world in aspects beyond politics: education, culture, economy, environmental issues, human rights and so on. The western media tends to cast China in a negative light; as a result, conversations with my non-Chinese friends about my home country often leave me feeling frustrated. At the same time, I often find my multicultural background clashes with my parents' traditional values and patriotism. I finally came to realise the greatest wall grows in our minds.
This is why I want to tell a different narrative about China. I chose to stage A Deal because it is a rare work that acknowledges the Chinese government’s achievements in poverty alleviation and criticises its violation of human rights at the same time.
The Chinese version of the play is named Noise because the writer intends to explore the cultural conflicts and challenge the audience to rethink their preconceived ideas about China, Asian family, freedom and liberty. By choosing a diverse cast and crew for A Deal’s Australian premiere, I hope to break free from the echo chambers of mainstream theatre. This version will not shy away from provoking dialogues and staging; by doing so, I want to create an open space for all audiences to hear dissenting opinions and develop empathy towards people from different cultures.
A Deal is a very personal story. It is not the media’s or anybody else’s truth but my truth, my personal feelings about the place where I grew up and the world I live in.
August 2019, Sydney