Jing-Xuan Chan explores her character in Jean Tong’s play Hungry Ghosts.
What attracted you to your role?
Initially, I was just really moved and affected by the writing and was drawn to the language and the text. The writer’s perspective was so unique and vivid and I was really eager to bring to life these images and ideas that she is playing with. I also loved that it was a Malaysian-Australian story.
What were your first impressions of the play and what compelled you to say ‘yes’ to this production?
There were so many elements about this play that excited me. I was quite interested in following the news of the MH370 plane disappearance when it occurred so I naturally was attracted to this play given that this was one of the central threads of the story. I was hugely intrigued by the way in which the political climate of Malaysia was explored in this text. Also, it is rare to get to be in a production with an all Asian-Australian cast so I couldn’t pass up this opportunity!
Can you tell us what you enjoy most about Jean Tong’s writing?
From my first read of this play I was struck by how intelligent and rich the text was. I love how Jean Tong sets up these different worlds and then jumps in and out of them – the text is beautifully poetic but also cheeky and irreverent. It is a joy to play with these words and bring them to life.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges of this script?
This script requires us as actors to think fast and be quick on our feet as we embody many different characters – it has been a really fun challenge to float in and out of these various worlds and personas throughout the play.
Do you think this is an important story to tell? Why?
I think this is an important story to tell as it is so relatable. Even if we don’t have a personal link to Malaysia, the ideas and themes explored in this play are still universal – questioning our identity, our love/hate relationship to our home country and its politics, trying to find where we fit in and belong.
What is unique about Petra Kalive’s rehearsal room?
I really enjoyed how our director Petra [Kalive] encouraged us to engage with this text through physicality. From early on in the process, we explored physical manifestations and responses to certain ideas, words and images that popped up in the play. Some of the themes and concepts in this text could potentially become heady or cerebral so I found it really fun and useful approaching the script in this way.
What is at the heart of the play?
This play poses many questions and at its core is an exploration of self and identity. What are the things we love/hate about ourselves, what about our home country brings us joy/makes us cringe, what would we change about ourselves if we could, what is home?