A play about a ‘Boxing Day BBQ’ may not sound unique as a BBQ is a general fixture in Australian Christmas holiday culture, but reading the synopsis of this play which has started its run at the Ensemble Theatre the idea is interesting and surely a humourous experience for all those who have or who will be checking it out.
Playing at the Ensemble Theatre, ‘Boxing Day BBQ’ is a comical insight into the tensions, dynamics and going ons in a family who have reunited to celebrate the festive season to honour the memory of their grandad Stephen who is known as the family’s ‘BBQ King’.
One of the stars of this play is Aileen Huynh, who plays a character which is part of grandad Stephen’s family and it is sure to be a great and comical performance. In a recent interview we did with Aileen, we asked her to tell us who she is and what is ‘Boxing Day BBQ’ about in her own words.
Career wise I am a performer and actor and have been in this industry for over a decade now, around 12 years. I love expressing myself through performance and this love hasn’t faded in all these years, she said.
Boxing Day BBQ is basically about the family getting together, and like it happens sometimes in many families, there are some conundrums and family relationships which need to be peeled layer by layer. Despite all this when we are with family we can be our true selves and let it all hang and come out as we love our family members unconditionally, so it is an exploration of all these feelings that everyone can relate to as it is about family interactions.
The character Aileen plays is one of the adult children of the family and it was interesting to learn more about the character and whether any part of the ‘real Aileen’ is reflected in the character she plays.
Oh, I don’t really think the character I play is similar to me at all – and I hope I am not quite her character. There are certain elements of her personality I definitely appreciate and have respect for in her which is saying a lot – you will know once you see the play, Aileen expressed.
Her viewpoints are quite quirky, but when she argues in the play I have discovered that she is very intelligent and has a lot of worthwhile things to say.
Aileen has thus far had a successful acting career in both film, TV and on stage. It is the stage work which she loves because of the skills and teamwork required. Academically and technical wise, she is trained in theatre based studies and attended both Wollongong University and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, so she isn’t really lacking in any skill set.
I guess theatre is the home-ground in terms of my training. I love theatre because of the technicality of it. I love the fact that you get to work and collaborate with other people so closely. Also, in all my years working on stage, when you are acting and in the moment, you give your all and you think about it even when you go home. I guess I was brought up with theatre and it runs in my blood now.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the last few years have not been easy for theatre, but a positive which has come out of it is that since pandemic restrictions have eased, there has been an increase in the number of plays being performed which are created by, featuring and/or centred on Asian Australian stories. This is quite refreshing and it provides an opportunity for more diverse audiences to go out and enjoy watching stage plays.
I think a lot of the leading stage companies realise that they need to cater to different and diverse audiences, particularly if the theatre is physically located in culturally diverse areas. For example, in Sydney, you can walk down the street and the people around you all come from such diverse backgrounds – our country’s demographics have changed, Aileen discusses.
Theatre has to mirror up to society for their audience base to grow. Personally I am elated to see so many Asian Australian based stage plays coming to life and I hope this momentum continues.
Finally, Aileen spoke about how her work as an actor and performer like the work of many Asian /Asian Australian creatives can change the narrative on anti-Asian hate and racism which has been plaguing the broader Asian/Asian Australian community over the past few years .
That is such a big question. As creatives there is a lot of pressure we feel to create, to tell and send particular messages etc. But you know what? there are times when we want to make a statement – express our experiences of identity and racism via our creative pursuits, and I think that is what we are seeing a lot more now with Asian/Asian Australian creatives.
It is also important to note that most of us just want to tell our stories which relate to us as people and for audiences to see that in our work is a way we can contribute to the change. Myself being Vietnamese and Chinese background these cultural influences will automatically be in the stories I choose to tell, and I hope these type of stories and influences will be enough to add to the diverse landscape of Australia.
You can check out Aileen Huynh in Ensemble Theatre’s ‘Boxing Day BBQ’ up till January 15, 2023. Please go here to check out details and book your tickets: https://www.ensemble.com.au/shows/boxing-day-bbq/ .