The Bone Feeder
The Globe Theatre, March 30-31.
Directed by Simon Zhou.
The story of the shipwrecked SS Ventnor is a poignant one.
In 1902, a ship carrying the bones of almost 500 Chinese miners set off from New Zealand towards their final resting place in China.
They made it as far as the Hokianga harbour, before sinking.
The Bone Feeder is based on this largely untold story. It focuses on Ben, played by Auckland Boys' Grammar student Jae Woo, who has promised his dying father he will find the bones of his great-great-grandfather, lost in the wreck.
Enter Maori ferry man Melvin Wani, who knows a thing or two about ancestors and the tangata whenua. Ben meets the ghost of his great-great-grandfather, played by Benjamin Teh, and eventually discovers what it means to be part of a family.
This play is original. Ben is a fifth generation Kiwi, of Chinese ancestry. He doesn't know how to speak the language, and feels detached from his family and culture. This is a contemporary issue that should be addressed.
The music is fantastic, with a live three-piece Chinese band playing traditional instruments with haunting precision.
Teh is outstanding as the long-dead ancestor, with a stage presence that demands attention.
But this play doesn't quite hit the mark. Ben's unresolved problems with his dead father distract attention from the adaptation of Chinese settlers to New Zealand and the cultural similarities with Maori.
There were long soliloquies which relied on Woo's acting to bring them alive – a tough ask for any young actor. And the ghosts were confusing, comedic one minute and morose the next.
Some scenes are beautiful though, and the message is good. It's on tonight.
- The Manawatu Standard
BY MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 12:00 31/03/2010