A Ghost in my Suitcase: A perfect combination of Chinese culture, theatre and adventure

A Ghost in my Suitcase: A perfect combination of Chinese culture, theatre and adventure

Featured photo credit: Sarah Walker

Be transported to China with the stage adaptation of Gabrielle Wang’s award-winning children’s adventure novel, A Ghost in my Suitcase for Sydney Festival 2019, from January 9-19 at the Sydney Opera House.

Inspired by the water towns across China, A Ghost in my Suitcase tells the story of 12-year-old Celeste who travels to Shanghai and meets her ghost-hunting Por Por (grandmother) for the first time.

Directed by Matt Edgerton and Chin Chin Ho, and written by Vanessa Bates, Gabrielle said she was surprised to hear that Perth children’s theatre company Barking Gecko wanted to adapt her novel for the stage.

“I think it’s almost every author’s dream to have their book made into a play or a movie, so it has to be one of the highlights of my life,” she said.

I was just blown away at how they represented it and adapted it for the stage, it was just amazing.

Photo credit: Sarah Walker

Having been on two trips to China with Gabrielle to see the places and the people that were the inspiration for much of the book, the Barking Gecko team ensured the play stays true to its Chinese settings as much as possible.

“It was really important to understand what the jumping point for Gabrielle was so that we were making our design and script choices and how we were telling the story from an informed place rather than just making it up,” Matt Edgerton, the play’s co-director, said.

“The other director, Chin Chin Ho, and our media artist Sohan Ariel Hayes went on a second trip to get footage in the French Colonial districts of Shanghai, tracking shots along canals in water towns, and they took many photographs of people and objects and places and architecture.

“These are all used throughout the show to create a sense of place.”

Photo credit: Sarah Walker

Having always been interested in creating stories that expand his view of the world, Matt also believes this play is important for audience members to be able to learn more about other cultures.

Gabrielle agrees, and she said the play is a great way to share some of the history of China with young audience members.

“Most Australians would not know about the history of China, such as the French settlements in Shanghai and it’s one way to impart that historical knowledge to young people,” she said.

It’s so important because Chinese history is not really studied at school and it’s definitely important for students to know about it.

Gabrielle also grew up with little knowledge of her Chinese heritage, and she only learnt more about her culture as she grew older.

“When I was growing up, we couldn’t speak Chinese, we didn’t know anything about Chinese culture and I only found out more about those things as I became an adult,” she explained.

“I lived in China for a while to find my, inverted commas, roots, and while I was there, I visited a number of water towns in China that I just thought were just fantastic to set a ghost story in.”

Combining these cultural learnings with the water towns and Por Por, her favourite character from her second novel The Pearl of Tiger Bay, Gabrielle produced A Ghost in my Suitcase, a work that was awarded the 2009 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Novel.

Photo credit: Sarah Walker

To learn more about the play, or to buy tickets, visit the Sydney Festival 2019 website HERE.

Event details:
A Ghost in my Suitcase
When: January 9-19, 2019 (various times)
Where: Sydney Opera House, Drama Theatre
Tickets: Various prices, see website for breakdown

Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]