BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

13/06/2019 - 15/06/2019

Kia Mau festival 2019

Production Details

Digging to Cambodia, a solo show performed by Sarita So, born of her 20 minute solo during her time at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School.  

12 years on she must revisit the excavation site, making another attempt to find what she’s looking for; an exploring of memory, collective memory, art and activism.

Through words, movement and songs from Cambodia’s 1960’s rock era, Digging to Cambodia is a letter to her past, present and future self, it asks us all “What is worth remembering?”

BATS Theatre The Heyday Dome
13 – 15 June 2019 
Full Price $22 
Concession Price $16 
Group 6+ $15 
Kia Mau  

*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

She: Sarita So

Theatre , Solo ,

50 mins

Elusive, allusive and constantly captivating

Review by John Smythe 14th Jun 2019

What are we to make of the undulating motor sound that heralds the start of Digging to Cambodia? When the door in the Eastern wall of the BATS Heyday Dome space opens, emitting a pink glow, the audience on the Northern side of the steep seating bank whoop at what they see, tantalising those of us on the Southern side until Sarita So’s ‘She’ glides forward.

Resplendent in her black wig, white face, red lips and dark pink dress, She dances sensuously until the door closes. Has whatever machine delivered her to us liberated or imprisoned her? An old book on the floor holds hidden treasures, one of which She secretes on her person.  

The upright shovel, stage right, is greeted as a friend she hasn’t seen for 12 years: amusing in itself but family, friends and colleagues may recall it is 12 years since Sarita So performed Digging to Cambodia as her 20-minute solo in her graduation year at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. (And it’s six years since her first full-length play, Neang Neak’s Legacy, prompted me to conclude, “[it] offers a rare and special opportunity to share experiences that surround us daily but may only come to light for most of us through plays like this.”)

That She is “still in the arts – what else would I be doing?” is a recurring line as this 45-minute version plays out, adding meta-theatrical commentary on Sarita’s presence right here, right now, in performance. Her dance with the Spade amusingly invests it with weight and weightlessness by way of showcasing the skills that include impressive singing and dancing – traditional and modern; Eastern and Western – along with her poetically fluent writing and wondrously fluid acting.

The dramatic substance of her quest, in digging up the past, plays out in dream-like memories and reincarnations of those who experienced the infamous ‘Killing Fields’ of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, before Sarita was born. The digging motif also relates to the journalists, activists and artists whose truth-seeking vocations put their lives at risk, with too many playing the ultimate price.

Video imagery (edited, and sometimes shot, by Michelle Mae Cameron) enhances the onstage performance. Interweaving the glimpsed horrors and heart-stirring stories of survival are evocations of hoe Sarita and her mother experienced being ‘re-born’ as New Zealanders. Indeed the notion of death and rebirth is a binding device for the play’s disparate elements, as the shape-shifting She exhumes and relives this unshakeable past, making new discoveries even as she wonders what’s worth remembering.

A vivid vein of humour permeates So’s elusive, allusive and constantly captivating performance, not least in the send-up karaoke sequence where BATS Theatre itself and Lyall Bay are the locations for her poignant music video.

The secreted treasure is recovered – and dropped: to be buried then exhumed by another explorer, or it this a symbolic letting go? The closed door opens – to release her or return her to a persistent past? Such ambiguities are ours to conjure with but there is no doubting Sarita So’s talent and resilience as an artist. What else would she be doing? 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council