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Epic Story Of Love, Laughter, And Loss - Ka Shue Comes To Hamilton’s Meteor Theatre

Lynda Chanwai-Earle in Ka-Shue (Letters Home), TAHI Festival 2020. Photo by Dianna Thomson Photography.

An epic story of love, laughter, and loss - Ka Shue (Letters Home), is coming to Hamilton’s Meteor Theatre.

A play spanning one hundred years between China and New Zealand through the eyes of a Chinese family struggling to resettle in Aotearoa. Ka Shue (Letters Home) follows three generations of the Leung family as they are swept across continents and time: The Second World War, the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, and the infamous buried history of the Poll Tax in New Zealand, £100 levied against Chinese migrants only (1883 to 1944).

Ka Shue encompasses a broad sweep of the political events between the two countries as a backdrop for the personal dramas of the five characters played by one actor. Jackie is Eurasian, in her early twenties, naively following her Chinese boyfriend into Beijing on the eve of the Tiananmen Square tragedy. As Jackie writes home to her mother Abbie in Wellington, Abbie recalls growing up as the only coloured child at school, her rebellion against her Chinese community, and her own naïve return to China during the Cultural Revolution, 1974.

Playwright Lynda Chanwai-Earle says "I am a Poll Tax descendant; my great-grandfather Dong Chanwai arrived in Wellington in 1907. My mother was just a baby when she and my Po-po (maternal grandmother) fled the Sino-Japanese invasion to become refugees on board the MS Wanganella bound for Wellington. Close to the bone, Ka-Shue is a fictionalised account of my own Chinese family, the Dong clan of Bak-Chuen, Poon-Yue County, Canton.”

Lynda will be taking the stage in the Hamilton season of Ka Shue (Letters Home) August 17-19 as a solo performer with accompaniment by musician Nikau Wi Neera.

A play grounded in history with a rich history of its own, Ka Shue (Letters Home) originally premiered at Wellington’s Circa Theatre in 1996 and since then took Aotearoa by storm with performances all over the country and in Hawai’i. The play then went on to be adapted to film for broadcast in 1998. The Ka Shue (Letters Home) publication (published by The Women's Play Press 1998 and now in its third print), video recording (Simon Raby, D.O.P.), and the education resource kits were distributed to drama teachers in secondary schools across the country. The publication also went on to become a prescribed text with NCEA and taught at the Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Auckland, the University of Otago, Waikato University, and the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

Described by Jim Moriarty as “a play about people, their joy and sorrow that resonates close to the heart of all of us." And deemed an "exceedingly satisfying piece of theatre..." by The Press (Christchurch), “Chanwai-Earle's nutshell epic deserves to pack them in!" (The NZ Herald).

Ka Shue (Letters Home) will be running at The Meteor with 6:30pm performances on August 17th,18th, and 19th. The Thursday 19th performance will also feature a Salon with Lynda Chanwai-Earle as one of the speakers at 8pm. Tickets for Ka Shue (Letters Home) are available at $25 General Admission, $20 Concession and $35 Show & Salon and can be found at themeteor.co.nz.

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