Sweet and Sour Dilemmas is one of those shows that leaves a little mystery in the air when you walk in. Sure, the description gives a little bit away – Chef Chung has come to Australia and opened the Happy Dragon Chinese Restaurant in Victoria. But there’s still an element of mystery as the audience heads in, unsure of exactly what they’re about to experience.
Tucked away within one of the rooms at Victorian Trades Hall, Sweet and Sour Dilemmas starts off on an interesting note. Brendan Wan is there to greet the crowd, dressed in a chefs jacket and assembling dumplings at the front of the small stage.
The performance itself is quite fascinating, Wan plays the role of someone that’s come to Australia to settle in, establish a business and make it a home – with his wife, who is expecting their first child. His story is told to the new employee at his restaurant – the stand-in for the audience. While the premise seems somewhat simple, the show itself is quite intriguing, telling stories of racism faced within Australia, the struggles that had occurred and what it was like to move from a wealthy family overseas to starting a life within a new country. Wan addresses the audience easily, the idea that the show is just a conversation feeling more true by the moment as he casually chats away.
The set-up is an interesting one – a small camera is set up above Wan’s hands as he assembles the dumplings, the video being displayed on a large projection screen on the side wall. This method is used throughout the show multiple times – to display photos, types of writing and sometimes to get the point of a comment across. While the idea is quite a unique one, in theory it doesn’t quite work so well in the set up of the small room. Any sitting close to the wall find themselves craning their necks upwards, unable to view more than a vertical display of the projection screen, essentially missing out on important parts throughout the show that may have been tied to that display.
Sweet and Sour Dilemmas is a nice change from the usual Fringe performance (no singing or dancing to be seen here), a quirky and feel good show, it is guaranteed to leave you smiling.
Sweet and Sour Dilemmas is showing as part of the 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival at Victorian Trades Hall. Tickets can be purchased here.