Miss Peony shines a light on the Chinese Australian experience

Currently playing at Belvoir St Theatre, Miss Peony is a light-hearted and joyful comedy that explores themes of cultural identity, intergenerational relationships, and the pursuit of connection. Set in the world of beauty pageants, the play tells the story of Lily, a young Australian woman of Chinese ancestry, haunted by her recently deceased grandmother’s insistence that she competes in the highly competitive Miss Peony pageant.

Michelle Law’s script is packed with boisterous humour, poignant moments, and clever references to Sydney’s iconic landmarks. The play moves at an entertaining pace, reminiscent of a satisfying chick flick while tackling important issues of racial stereotypes and microaggressions within specific communities. It is a refreshing and authentic portrayal of the Asian Australian experience that I haven’t seen before in Australian theatre.

Miss Peony entertains and serves as a platform for cultural representation and storytelling. Michelle Law’s dedication to sharing stories that reflect the Asian Australian experience is evident in her writing. By celebrating the rich history of Chinese ancestry in Australia, the play offers a rare opportunity for multi-generational engagement and a sense of pride within the community.

Courtney Stewart’s direction infuses the play with fun and visual flair. The use of physical comedy and visual cues, along with the vibrant lighting design by Trent Suidgeest and quick costume changes by Jonathan Hindmarsh, create an immersive and dynamic theatrical experience. Incorporating trilingual text and surtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese adds a unique layer of inclusivity, allowing the story to transcend cultural lines and reach a wider audience.

The cast of Miss Peony shines with their exceptional performances. Stephanie Jack delivers a heartfelt portrayal of Lily, capturing the character’s journey of self-discovery and cultural appreciation. Gabrielle Chan brings ethereal grace and gumption to the role of Adeline, Lily’s ghostly grandmother, whose determination to preserve her legacy drives the story forward. While Law’s script occasionally introduces multiple unresolved subplots, the brilliant cast and their memorable performances compensate for these minor shortcomings. Shirong Wu’s portrayal of Joy, in particular, stands out for its tender and awkward sincerity, while Mabel Li brings a rip-roaring joy to her Western Sydney character with impeccable comedic timing.

Overall, Miss Peony is a delightful and significant contribution to Australian theatre. With its blend of humour, cultural exploration, and heartfelt performances, the play successfully captures the complexities of identity and the universal need for connection. It is a testament to the power of storytelling and the importance of diverse voices on stage. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this bold and entertaining comedy that puts the Asian Australian experience front and centre.

– The other Daniel Craig


Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig

Miss Peony runs for 2 hours 20 mins (including 20 min interval) and plays at Belvoir St Theatre through 30 July 2023. Tickets are available through the Belvoir St Theatre Company Box Office.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Kabuku PR.

Image credit: Sherry Zheng.