BATS Theatre, Wellington

10/02/2015 - 21/02/2015

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

24/02/2015 - 07/03/2015

Baycourt X-Space, Tauranga

07/09/2016 - 07/09/2016

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

10/09/2016 - 10/09/2016

TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

15/09/2016 - 15/09/2016

Auckland Fringe 2015

Arts On Tour NZ 2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

“Though we are a thousand leagues apart, we all look on the same moon.” – Tang Dynasty poem

Por Por Grace, an elderly woman from Hong Kong, embarks on the trip of a lifetime – a visit to New Zealand to attend the wedding of her granddaughter. Unfortunately she hasn’t been invited and no one knows she’s coming until she slips her caregivers and turns up in Wellington. Her presence throws some knots into an already fraught time for her family…

Her daughter, Lorna, has been living in NZ for over 20 years. Outwardly the dutiful daughter who has made sure her mother is well provided for, Lorna finds Por Por’s arrival incredibly inconvenient. How can she assume her new role as family matriarch when her own mother is there, reminding her to go to the toilet? And there’s the niggling worry that Por Por has advancing dementia.

Lorna’s three daughters, meanwhile, engage with their grandmother in different ways. Stella, the oldest and without a partner after a series of disastrous relationships, wishes for a child. Sarah, the middle child who’s getting married, struggles with her mother’s disapproval of her fiancée, her job, everything about her life, really. And Stephanie, the youngest, has always been withdrawn and non communicative – until Por Por comes along.

Meanwhile, freed of her carers, Por Por’s out to discover the world. Or at least NZ. That’s quite a cultural place isn’t it? What better way to discover it than by joining a Kiwi Experience backpacker bus tour? Unfortunately her understanding of cultural norms is a little… off. She’s returned by the police to her family just in time for the ceremony. But then fate throws another of its curveballs – and the family are reminded once again of the joy, heartbreak and mystery of life.

A heartfelt comedy about daughters and their wayward mothers. From award-winning writer Renee Liang (Lantern, The First Asian AB, The Bone Feeder) with the chameleonic skills of Hweiling Ow (Flat3, Two Fish n a Scoop).

World premier season as part of NZ Fringe and the Chinese New Year Festival Wellington. With thanks to BATS, Asia NZ Foundation and the Asian Events Trust. 
Part of the lantern Festival and Auckland Fringe in Auckland.


BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
10-21 February, 6.30pm
Bookings http://bats.co.nz/ (Wellington) 
Fringe Addict and Artist tickets $12. Two show pass for Under the Same Moon and The Two Farting Sisters $24. Email book@bats.co.nz to find out more.

Musgrove Studio (Maidment Theatre, Auckland)
24 Feb- 7 Mar 2015, 8 pm,
http://www.maidment.auckland.ac.nz (Auckland)
Tickets $16 full/$14 groups&concession/$12 child


Arts on Tour NZ Itinerary – 2016

Tuesday 6 September 7.30pm
War Memorial Theatre
$25 Book: Stephen Jones Photography 06 868 8288

Wednesday 7 September 6pm
Baycourt X Space  
Adult $25; Concession $22;
Friends of Baycourt $20; Children $10
Book: www.ticketek.co.nz

Friday 9 September 6.30pm for 7pm start
Town Hall
Adults $20; Student/Child u 19 $15
Book: Whitianga Paper Plus 

Saturday 10 September 7.30pm
Playhouse Theatre 
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
University of Waikato
Adults $20; Seniors and unwaged $15;
Students and school age children $10 
Book: www.waikato.ac.nz/academy/whats-on

Tuesday 13 September 7.30pm
Te Ahu Little Theatre
$20 Book: Far North i-Site 09 408 9450

Thursday 15 September 6pm
New Plymouth
Theatre Royal TSB Showplace
Theatre seat $25; Table seat $30; Table of 8 $200
Student/Child $15
Book: TSB Showplace www.ticketek.co.nz 0800 TICKETEK

Friday 16 September 8pm
Upper Hutt
Expressions Whirinaki Arts Centre
$20 Book: www.expressions.org.nz

Saturday 17 September 8pm
Whitehaven Wine Room
ASB Theatre Marlborough
$25 Book: TicketDirect and the venue

Sunday 18 September 8pm
The Mussel Inn
$15 Book: The Mussel Inn

Tuesday 20 September 7.30pm
Old Lodge Theatre
$20 book: Hokitika Regent Theatre

Thursday 22 September 7.30pm
Athenaeum Hall
$20 + booking fee
Book: www.eventfinda.co.nz

Friday 23 September 7.30pm
Rep House
$25 book: www.eventfinda.co.nz 

Saturday 24 September 7.30pm, Sunday 25 September 4pm
Fortune Theatre
Adult $30, Concessions $25 Booking fees apply
Book: Fortune Theatre www.fortunetheatre.co.nz 

Tuesday 27 September 7.30pm
Events Centre
Adults $20; Students $10
Book: Twizel Information Centre

Wednesday 28 September 7.30pm
Trust Event Centre
Adults $20, Students $10; All Door Sales $25
Book: ATEC box office or www.ateventcentre.co.nz

Friday 30 September 5.30pm
Gloucester Room, Isaac Theatre Royal
Adults $28; Concessions and Groups 6+ $25
Book: 0800 TICKETEK
Booking fees apply

Arts On Tour New Zealand (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand, support from Interislander, and liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the other way around.

2015 season directed by Theresa May Adams

Designed by Deb McGuire

Theatre , Solo ,

Falls short of its promise

Review by Ngaire Riley 17th Sep 2016

Under the Same Moon reminds us that our moon is the same moon that every single person in the world sees. In this play the moon creates a commonality between generations and locations. It also exists as a friend to Popo, the grandmother, accompanying her on her journey from China to New Zealand, listening to her pain when rifts in her family occur and in its waning, reminding her that she is not long for this world.

It is an interesting premise but this production seems rather flat in its delivery and lacks the power or impact to move or entertain us. 

Hweiling Ow creates the grandmother, her daughter and two granddaughters with clarity. However it was not always easy to hear the dialogue and the often low, or shadowy lighting means that subtleties of expression are lost. The performance seems to need a smaller, more intimate space or a larger, stronger performance. 

A strength of contemporary New Zealand theatre in last 20 years is the wonderful writing and performances that have come from New Zealand cultures that are not Pakeha. Jacob Rajan’s characters, the boys’ world in Oscar Kightley and Dave Armstrong’s Niu Sila, Whiti Ihimaera’s Woman Far Walking, Toa’s Fraser’s Bare and Rewena by Whiti Hereaka spring to mind. 

Although Under the Same Moon explores the tensions and stresses in the relationships of the three generations of Chinese women, it seems to lack the stories promised by the Grandmother that might have brought understanding to the family and insight for us.

There is a flashback to the grandmother dancing the tango with an American in the war, but this happens when she is on the plane to New Zealand, and she dances as an old woman in the flashback. Perhaps this and other stories could have been shared with her granddaughter who wanted to know more family history rather than the verbal conflict that exposed snippets of women’s stories.

The grandmother’s blunt, sharp observations create much of the humour. Other jokes seem to be based on stereotypical attitudes: the grandmother’s romp round New Zealand on a bus, miming things like bungee jumping, huhu eating and scootering to ‘Poi E’ seemed to be pitched at a school aged audience or looking for cheap laughs. 

I look forward to the ‘Arts on Tour’ productions but this falls short of the usual quality. 


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A keen observation of human nature and family

Review by Marlise Hughes 08th Sep 2016

“Though we are a thousand leagues apart, we all look on the same moon.” – Tang Dynasty poem.

The loud preshow music of ‘Kiwi classics’ immediately seems at odds with the gentility of the complimentary green tea and Chinese nibbles. Perhaps it is supposed to emphasise the clash of cultures. If so, it misses the mark with my companion and me and just leaves us a little confused as to what we are about to see. 

As soon as the show gets underway it is abundantly clear. Hweiling Ow is an expressive performer, using her entire body to flesh out the characters in a very immediate way. I find the set pieces with ‘Pop Por’, the 88 year old Grandmother with a wandering mind but a will of iron, to be the most enjoyable. Her quirky wisdom, personal history and downright cantankerousness crosses all ethnic borders and I glean from the nods and gentle murmurings of those around me that I am not the only audience member who is seeing glimpses of my own family in this wonderfully colourful character.

The minimal but clearly Asian-influenced set (designed by Deborah McGuire) is used to good effect and the lighting design (Sam Mence) does well to help the transitions from place to place and character to character. There are multiple characters in this one woman play and with sometimes as little as a shift in shoulders to separate one from another it is occasionally hard to keep track of who we are seeing; indeed there are a few times where it seems the actress herself is struggling with this.

I find the moments of ‘bouncing’ dialogue a little distracting but am completely mesmerised by Porpor’s reminiscing with her old friend the Moon.

Directed by Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho, Renee Liang’s play is not so much a clash of cultures as a clash of generations, although we see Lorna, Porpor’s dutiful but emotionally challenged daughter, struggle with this the most. Lorna has been in NZ for over 20 years, leaving her mother in Hong Kong with enough financial support to get by but little emotional support, so now that Porpor has made the unexpected journey to NZ to attend her granddaughter’s wedding we see the struggle to reconnect after years of what Porpor describes as “plenty of money but no words!”

This is not an hilarious laugh-out-loud comedy but rather a keen observation of human nature and family. Its quiet humour and gentle wit make for a very enjoyable night out. Billed as a comedy about daughters and their wayward mothers, I have brought my own elderly (and somewhat wayward!) mother with me we are both very glad I did.  


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Engaging and potent commentary on women’s relationships

Review by Dione Joseph 25th Feb 2015

Renee Liang’s Under the Same Moon is a tale that explores the relationships between three generations of women taking us from Hong Kong all the way to Aotearoa. 

Por Por (meaning grandmother in Cantonese) is our first introduction to Hweiling Ow’s talented shape-shifting as she plays ten characters within the hour’s drama. This feisty grandma has decided to escape her rest home and attend her grand-daughter’s wedding bringing with her of course traditional thousand year eggs to ensure good luck. But her daughter Lorna, who we discover is estranged from her husband and now and has three girls of her own (Stella, Sarah and Stephanie) is far from pleased that her errant mother is on the loose.

The bride-to-be Sarah is beset with difficult decisions (will her wedding dress make her look like a meringue and why doesn’t her mother approve of her hippy hubby-to-be) while her elder sister Stella is lovesick at having left behind a boyfriend several years younger than her in London. And the youngest daughter, Stephanie, a graphic artist, seems to be the shy and retiring sister of the three.

At times, it seems to get a tad messy (and not just because all three daughters names start with S) but because the climax of the drama, i.e. this highly anticipated wedding, is shunted to the background with a series of other anecdotal excursions that are in themselves light, humorous and insightful yet do little to allow the different narratives to coalesce.

There are clues that perhaps Por Por is experiencing dementia (she tells her granddaughters she taught their mother how to cook yet we find this to be contrary to the truth when Lorna tells her children that their grandmother grew up in a rich household and never had to do any housework) and those moments are precious yet never fully explored. Similarly, the relationship between Lorna and her mother (the difficulty of putting her in a rest home and the knee-jerk decision to put her straight back on a plane) seems to have residual tensions that remain unresolved despite the apparent reconciliation at the end.

Also the three granddaughters seem to be experiencing all the joys and trials that are faced by young women as they come to decisions about partners, love, life and friendships but they seem to be slightly superficial with the exception being the genuine exchanges between the youngest Stephanie, and her Por Por.

But Liang is nothing if not ambitious and under the direction of director Theresa May Adams this engaging and potent commentary on women’s relationships makes a strong and memorable impression – even if the work is still in development. Against a bright red structure from which hangs numerous family photographs, and armed with few props, Hweiling Ow takes Liang’s sharp incisive writing and goes from a sky-diving, skinny dipping Granny to iPhone-thumbing technology savvy youngster with a quick straightening of her back and change in her facial expression. Her accent work is excellent but on opening night there seem to be a few stumbles.

The musical choices are good, especially for enabling the audience to follow the change in characters, and the repeated tango music affirms that this could be a version of Por Por’s truth. 

Considering the scope of the work, it is tempting to imagine how the drama would unfold with a bigger cast. The other area of slight confusion is the blurring of realities and occasional dreamscape sequences that seem to flow between the past and present which seem out of place (unless it really is all through the subjective memories). This occasionally undermines what appears to be the unifying theme: whether under the skies of Hong Kong or Auckland the same moon shines upon all womenfolk, and that is perhaps one of the most beautiful, poignant sub-themes of the work. 


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Inherently interesting elements yet to find cohesion

Review by John Smythe 11th Feb 2015

Calling this first outing a development season is spot-on, given the complexity of Renee Liang’s multi-directional story and the challenging demands it puts on the solo actor, director, designers, technical operator and audience. A cast of six, or so, would carry the intricate interweaving stories with ease, but here our attention is constantly diverted towards working who is who and what is happening, as well as why and what it all adds up to. 

An old woman whom we’ll come to know as Por Por (Chinese for maternal grandmother) embarks on an international flight, establishing her idiosyncratic behaviour en-route. When her surprising methods of dealing with a snorer in the row in front don’t attract the attention and concern of others and/or the cabin crew, I have to wonder if we are into ‘subjective reality’ territory.

Meanwhile, in Wellington, a young woman is trying on her wedding dress, attended by her grumpy mother and two sisters. Over the hour it becomes apparent the mother, who still has a Chinese accent and is divorced from the husband who brought her here, is Lorna, the bride-to-be is Sarah (a lawyer), her younger sister is Stephanie (a graphic designer) and her older sister, Stella, is 30 and has just broken up with a much younger boyfriend in London. 

Hweiling Ow does a splendid job of differentiating the characters and maintaining the flow but a great deal of the play seems to be ‘set up’ without the pay-offs and punchlines. For example, the moment of discovery that Por Por has unexpectedly made the journey from Hong Kong to be at the wedding is absent from the present action. So too is the wedding itself, even as a stylised theatrical moment.

There are times when I realise a humorous observation or action should be drawing a laugh but it doesn’t, which suggests pacing and timing need attention. Director Theresa May Adams has clearly worked diligently to support Hweiling in defining and refining the characters; now the unfolding story needs to be shaped to better effect.

It’s a big ask for a multi-character solo show to achieve coherence and cohesion when their divergent objectives are not being pursued within the same plot device – e.g. the impending wedding. Por Por takes off on all sorts of extra-curricular activities and confusion is compounded when she seems to start narrating her back-story out of the blue; an erratically used convention. (I discover later the discursive diversions into her past life, be they real or fantasised, are supposed to denote her demented state. All I can say is that is not clear at the time.)

Such elements as the quiet daughter, Stephanie, forming a special bond with her Por Por are delightful in themselves but cannot be said to be contributing to some greater dramaturgical purpose; to a whole that transcends the play’s parts. Perhaps a solution lies in the possibility of the play being Stephanie’s ‘heightened reality’ version of the time Por Por turned up for Sarah’s wedding.

The title – Under the Same Moon – reflects a famous poem by Su Shi from the Song Dynasty (1036-1011 AD) which concludes: “All we can hope for is life enough to see / that though a thousand leagues apart, / we all look on the same moon.” This seems to embody the deeper and potentially unifying theme that, according to Liang’s programme note, drew her away from her original intention: “to write a madcap comedy about the breaking of cultural norms when a Hong Kong grandmother invites herself to a wedding in Aotearoa.”

The insights into three generations of Chinese women are also inherently interesting and I’m sure the comparing and contrasting of them could be more entertainingly crafted to fit the ‘same difference’ theme. Perhaps the question Por Por finally reveals she had for Lorna, alongside the question Lorna has for Sarah, is a key to finding cohesion.

The raw material is certainly there, as are the requisite skills. Once the things I admire when I think about them are more apparent within the production itself, the play will be reaching its undoubted potential. Of course re-working it for a larger cast is also an option.


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