Flipping the script for Australian women of colour

Flipping the script for Australian women of colour

Photo credit: Leah Jing

Over the years, like many young Australians, Michelle Law would regularly attend plays and watch movies during her free time. Although they were often great stories, she noticed there was something wrong with Asian representations on screen and on stage.

Using these experiences, Michelle set out to create works to break down the stereotypes that often come with being a woman of colour in Australia. Her debut play, Single Asian Female, was staged in theatres in both Brisbane and Sydney, and received great reviews from publications such as the Sydney Morning Herald, Junkee and TimeOut magazine.

“Seeing it on stage for the first time and on opening night and seeing those audiences who don’t normally go to the theatre, or who haven’t been to the theatre before, be affected by the work was really meaningful to me,” Michelle said.

“Just to see that unfold on stage, especially the actors being women of colour and then seeing women of colour in the audience connect to the characters and their stories was really moving for me as a writer.”

The play was inspired by a blog Michelle started after a significant break up in her life, which explored the themes of being single, asian and female, and how these labels affect the everyday lives of women of colour in Australia.

Michelle was born and raised in Queensland, but her Chinese-heritage parents ensured she and her siblings did not lose touch with their culture. Whether that be through cultural etiquette such as removing shoes before entering a house, or regularly eating Chinese foods, Michelle said these moments have and will continue to inspire her work.

“Now that I’m older, I’ve learnt it’s something to be quite proud of and I feel quite lucky to have that dual cultural background,” she said.

“I don’t think I ever set out intentionally to write about my cultural background or race, but it’s often what is at the forefront of my mind at the time of writing, it is a part of who I am and a part of my everyday life.”

When asked who her biggest idol is, Michelle provided a list.

Sandra Oh, Constance Wu and Ali Wong; three powerful women who are also working hard in their industries to subvert stereotypes that have plagued theatre and film for years.

“Whether it’s in acting or stand-up or producing, they’re really speaking out in terms of getting more asian representation both in front of and behind the camera.

“I really admire those women because they’re not just accepting it and staying quiet, which is what everyone kind of expects because often Asians are seen as those people who can be tread on because they won’t normally complain,” Michelle said.

Upcoming projects for Michelle include a feature film adaptation of Alice Pung’s young adult novel Laurinda, and a few other film and television projects in collaboration with screenwriter and director, Corrie Chen.

Stay up-to-date with Michelle and her future works by following her twitter HERE.

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]