‘K-Box’: Questioning middle-class Australia with blitzing comedic flair

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‘K-Box’: Questioning middle-class Australia with blitzing comedic flair

Credit: Phoebe Powell
Review by James Robertson

The Malthouse Theatre’s latest theatrical offering comes in the form of 'K-Box', an original work by Ra Chapman that questions the lives and values of middle-class Australia all with a blitzing comedic flair.

Chapman offers a personal slice of life drama that expertly flits between beautifully constructed and introspective character work to cheer-worthy, laugh-out-loud moments.

K-Box follows Lucy, played by Susanna Qian, a 30-something woman who moves back in with her parents in their quaint country town after things don’t work out between her and her boyfriend. A Korean adoptee of two white Australian parents, played by Syd Brisbane and Maude Davey, Lucy grapples with her own identity as childhood memories are uprooted.

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Without being able to speak Korean, or having even been back there since she was four years old, is she even really Korean at all? That question is heightened even more so when she meets a new man: a dreamy K-Pop star, played by Jeffrey Liu, who inexplicably happened to be passing through this small country town on a road trip of self-discovery. Lucy’s parents come to terms with their prejudices and Lucy discovers her own.

The theatre’s set, designed by Romanie Harper, truly feels like peering into someone’s home. With the audience placed within the sphere of the front yard, we get an idea of the sense of suburbia through the crunchy, pebbled lawn and the wheelie bins out the front, before being allowed to see through the cut-out of the wall into the kitsch world of their living room. The little details really speak for themselves, such as the abundance of leaves adorning the ceiling to convey the presence of eucalyptus trees in the yard.

The four-person cast is difficult to fault, all bringing their own talents to their respective characters. Susanna Qian shines when she is left with the weight of her thoughts: you can tell that she is working through identity issues in her own troubled way. Jeffrey Liu is not so much the comedic relief character in the play, instead acting as the sole source of pure joy in the play, featuring his singing chops in some fabulously bombastic K-Pop numbers.

The quintessential Aussie parents, Syd Brisbane and Maude Davey both shine with their comedic timing and earnest portrayals, truly surprising with the nuances that lie behind their stereotypical characters.

Ra Chapman’s script is enticing and exciting from the outset. Fast-paced comedy and bombastic scenes are met with twists and turns. K-Box truly takes you in an unexpected direction, culminating in a very human story that provokes thought and entertains.

Get tickets via the Malthouse Theatre website here.