Skyduck: A Chinese Spy Comedy

Writer/Performer Sam Wang. Director Aileen Huynh. Riverside Theatres Parramatta. June 29 – July 1, 2023

Reviewed : 30 June, 2023*

Photo : supplied

Advertised as “Think Chinese Top Gun meets 007 with a J-Pop backing track!”, Skyduck is not your usual comedy. In fact, there is little that is ‘usual’ about this production – except for the fact that it is ‘theatre’ in the very broadest sense of the word. It uses a multitude of old and new theatrical devices, from puppets to projections, and plot, described as “a rollicking tale of international espionage”, mixes features of theatre of the absurd with commedia dell’arte and musical theatre.

As he takes his audience on the mission to steal the Skyhawk X-93, America’s “most prized flight simulation software”, writer and performer Sam Wang becomes a variety of characters speaking in variously accented English … and Mandarin … with sub-titles!

Photo : from website

Wang establishes the characters deftly, skilfully using changes of tone and pitch and facial expressions to differentiate each of the many characters he portrays – whether they be Chinese spies, an American agent or an Australian Aerobatics Squadron Leader.

A multi-talented artist, Wang writes, builds his own props, acts, sings and dances. He uses movement to augment the differences in his characters – and includes some comedic choreography! In the course of the performance he uses machines, ping pong balls, video images, suspensions … and a glitter ball! All add to the bizarre story he has concocted, which includes a plethora of references … including Pine Gap, the barrel roll from Top Gun”, an AFL Grand Final and the 2000 Olympics! It’s laugh-out-loud funny – but also incredibly clever!

Wang is lithe, nimble and dexterous – all of which are essential to sustain the pace and energy of this ingenious example of contemporary theatre.

First published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening performance