Who speaks for me? at Parramatta's Riverside Theatres

TALES OF PERSONAL JOURNEY: William Le and Sophie To. Picture: William Yang

TALES OF PERSONAL JOURNEY: William Le and Sophie To. Picture: William Yang

Discover the unexpected stories of western Sydney in an intimate multi-lingual, multi-generational storytelling show, Who Speaks For Me?

Through personal narratives and photographs, Who Speaks For Me? explores the vagaries of language – the powerlessness of those who do not have it, the nuances lost in translation, and the sometimes hilarious consequences of misunderstanding it.

Co-directed by master storyteller and photographer William Yang, and writer and producer Annette Shun Wah, Who Speaks For Me? follows their critically acclaimed collaborations Stories Then & Now, Stories East & West and In Between Two.

“This multifaceted performance is interesting to watch for attendees and will bring a deep connection to the viewers,” Ms Shun Wah said.

“The stories come from real life families and explore some of the difficulties families may face when migrating to Australia, accompanied by rare photographs from private family collections.

“The stories will take the audience to the heart of the migrant’s journey.”

Who Speaks For Me? includes the story of Cambodian mother, Ly Heang Seang, who was so desperate to get her driver’s license that she sat for the written test a total of 31 times before succeeding. Throughout her story, Ly Heang Seang comes to rely on her son, Vanna, for communicating in English including facilitating meetings with his school principal and at a later stage, providing the words to assist Ly Heang Seang to triumph over workplace bullying.

WHO SPEAKS FOR ME? Vanna and Ly Heang Seang. Picture: William Yang

WHO SPEAKS FOR ME? Vanna and Ly Heang Seang. Picture: William Yang

The production also includes the story of Vietnamese refugee, Bà Quôc Viêt, who fled her homeland by boat with her daughter Sophie To. Famous in Vietnam and parts of south-east Asia for her cooking expertise, Bà Quôc Viêt never let a lack of English get in her way, especially when it came to communicating with her ‘favourite’ grandson William who was born profoundly deaf and learnt to speak only English.

And from western Sydney’s Bhutanese community, we hear the story of husband and wife Puspa Lal and Chandra Acharya who were forced to flee persecution in Bhutan for protesting a clampdown on the Nepali language and culture. After two decades in a refugee camp in Nepal, they arrived in Sydney as part of a major humanitarian program to settle 5000 Bhutanese refugees in Australia. Here, Puspa helps new migrants adjust to life in his new country and Chandra is learning English but relies on Puspa to speak for her.

Who Speaks for Me? is the first collaboration between Performance 4a and the National Theatre of Parramatta, bringing to light the stories of western Sydney often hidden because of language and culture, yet integral to the vibrancy of the region.

LIFE STORIES: Puspa Lal Acharya and Chandra Acharya. Picture: William Yang

LIFE STORIES: Puspa Lal Acharya and Chandra Acharya. Picture: William Yang

Details: Thursday, October 13 at 7.30pm (Opening night); Friday, October 14 at 7.30pm and Saturday, October 15 at 2pm and 7.30pm. At 4pm, an Artist Talk will be held with the cast and co-directors discussing the process of making Who Speaks For Me? Free, bookings essential.

Tickets: Adult $37; Concession $32; 30 & Under $27. To book: Call the Box Office (02) 8839 3399 or visit riversideparramatta.com.au.

Venue: Riverside Theatres, Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta.

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