One man’s search for the roots of his identity

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jun 22, 2017 - Page 14

Oliver Chong (鍾達成), a director/playwright/actor with the Singapore-based The Finger Players (十指幫劇場) has brought his acclaimed one-man show, 2012’s Roots (根) to Taiwan.

He will be performing two shows at the Cloud Gate Theater in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District, starting tomorrow night.

Something of a Renaissance man, Chong not only wrote the play, he directed it and created the set design as well.

Alone on a rice-layered stage — the visual metaphor for the paddy fields his Chinese ancestors tilled — with just a radio cassette player, a rice cooker and two rakes for props, Chong portrays a multitude of characters, including his grandmother, long-lost relatives and hotel staffers — switching easily between English, Mandarin and Cantonese — as he explores his links to a long-lost China and his identity as a Singaporean.

The premise is that Chong wanted to find his ancestral hometown in China, but his grandmother proved evasive when asked for information, so he was forced onto the Internet to search for leads. When he finally travels to China and finds his great-grandfather’s ancestral home, he discovers the stories his grandmother told him do not match what he hears from distant relations.

Chong is trying to discover his family’s story, but his story — and that of his family — is also the story of so many of Singapore’s Chinese immigrants who fled their villages over the centuries in search of a jobs and money to send to those they left behind, but in the end forged new lives and new identities.

Roots won Best Production and Best Script at13th Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards in 2013.

The show runs about 70 minutes, without intermission, and Chinese subtitles will be provided.

People who earlier purchased tickets for the Saturday night show and Sunday matinee, which have been cancelled, can redeem them for tickets for the two remaining shows with a 20 percent discount. Those who cannot make those shows will be given a full refund, Cloud Gate Theater said.

Ticketholders should contact Miss Lai at the theater at (02) 2629-8558, extension 2214.