Fiona Choi (right) with Diana Lin. Photo: Jeff Busby
Fiona Choi (right) with Diana Lin. Photo: Jeff Busby

MTC Education

Fiona Choi on Torch the Place

Familiar to Benjamin Law fans as Jenny (aka Mum) in The Family Law, Fiona Choi reunites with the first-time playwright to play eldest sibling (and defacto mum) in Torch the Place.

Fiona Choi discusses the nerve-wracking challenge of having to play piano live on stage, the specific body-language her straight-laced character of Teresa requires, and more.

What would you say drives/motivates your character?

My character, Teresa, is driven by forces both external and internal – she is the eldest daughter and has been looking after her Mum since she was a teen, so she feels a real responsibility to make sure her Mum is OK. She feels strongly that living in the hoarders mess is affecting her Mum’s mental and physical well-being. She is also keen to be able to free herself of having to spend so much time on her Mum so she can focus on her own life.

There is also the external pressure of complaints from neighbours, a threat from the local Council, and this is the only weekend she has been able to gather the rest of her siblings together.

How do you embody your character?

Teresa is a straight-laced school teacher who likes to be in control so at times a righteous, patronising tone creeps in. She is often exasperated, impatient and constantly planning ahead, which also gives her a jerky, staccato-like body language. Her costuming is very conservative and practical.

In your opinion, what is this play about, and why is it being told now?

I think this is a play about family and learning how to truly accept your loved ones as they are rather than how you would like them to be. It will resonate with many people because it is about bridging the disconnect between generations and across cultures, as typically happens in immigrant families.

Plus it really has something to say about personal versus societal versus structural responsibility – when someone like Teresa’s Mum becomes a hoarder, what is the real cause and what really is the best way forward?

What’s the most exciting challenge for you in Torch the Place and why? 

Having to play piano live on stage is a nerve-wracking challenge – it’s quite integral to the plot that Teresa was a child piano prodigy, and I am nowhere near that level of competency, especially for those few times when I have to play with ease while exchanging dialogue during some scenes.

See the full video to view what the rest of Torch the Place team could never give away. 

Torch the Place is on at Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio.

Published on 24 February 2020

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