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Reviews/Theatre

Laura Liu makes a splash with new play

10 February 2022

The Complete Show of Water Skiing has a neat plot twist, a happy ending and a marvellous piece of casting. What more could you want, asks David Zampatti.

The Complete Show of Water Skiing, Laura Liu ∙
The Blue Room Theatre, 8 February 2022 ∙

The Complete Show of Water Skiing by Laura Liu is a quirky little Perth-based teaser that skips merrily to a very satisfying – even cathartic – conclusion once the misunderstanding at its heart is revealed.

Jenny (Zendra Giraudo), helped by her friends Lily (Crystal Nguyen) and Abby (Lucy Wong), is sorting through the belongings of her beloved grandfather Xe after his death when she comes across a well-thumbed old book of his, The Complete Book of Water Skiing, published for the 1953 World Championships in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jenny is stunned and inspired by her grandad’s forgotten and surprising passion for a pastime that wasn’t usually associated with the Chinese-Australian community in the 1950s.

So, in his honour, the girls, especially the pugnacious and athletic Abby, resolve to take up the sport using the old book as their training manual, and set about practising for a local tournament down in Baldivis (yes, you can water ski at a ski park just off the freeway in bucolic Baldivis).

They’ve only got skateboards with the trucks removed as skis, and reproduce water pressure by hurling ping pong balls at each other, but, hey, stuff like that worked in Cool Runnings, so why not this time?

There’s a twist: it’s so delicious that it grieves me not to let it out of the bag – that would be an unforgiveable spoiler – but it’s a good example of the writer Medina Dizdarevic’s talent for narrative and character.

It’s no spoiler, though, to tell you that the girls’ team, Xe’s Angels, go on to win the competition because, well, of course they do.

The play’s great charm is director Laura Liu’s treatment of the characters. We are aware of, but not diverted by, its cultural references, though there are some nicely conceived and very funny glimpses of Chinese-Australian family life throughout.

Most notable is the performance of Crystal Nguyen, vivacious, quick-witted and hugely entertaining as Lily.

Additionally, Nguyen, who has brittle bone disease and uses a wheelchair, plays a character without a disability. I confess to being very moved by this bold and sensitive piece of casting and performance. There is an ongoing debate about appropriation across racial, cultural, gender and disability lines in the theatre and on screen, but here is a triumphant reversal of that practice.

It’s one notable highlight of a production that has many others to recommend it.        

The Complete Show of Water Skiing runs at the Blue Room until 12 February.

Pictured top: Performers (from left) Zendra Giraudo, Crystal Nguyen and Lucy Wong. Photo: Jordyn Montague

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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    A cabaret veteran and opera performer bring very different interpretations of the greats of classical, jazz and pop in the second week of the Perth International Cabaret Festival, writes David Zampatti

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