Review: Confessions Of A Custard Melon Pan (The Sydney Fringe)

Venue: 107 (Redfern NSW), Sep 12 – 14, 2019
Playwright: Arisa Yura
Director: Courtney Stewart
Cast: Arisa Yura

Theatre review
Arisa Yura is of the 1.5 generation, having moved from Japan in her early teens. She bears characteristics of her home country, but is also assimilated into Australian life. In her autobiographical work Confessions Of A Custard Melon Pan, we observe the contradictions, challenges and comedy of an existence straddling two very different cultures. Scenes are set alternately in both places, but Yura remains bi-cultural no matter the location, and is therefore always accompanied by a disquieting sense of displacement. Our incontrovertible corporeality implies that home is a staunchly singular notion, but many in the 21st century have roots growing in more than one terrain, which lead to the creation of complex identities requiring an almost constant negotiation with environments and communities, wherever one finds themself situated.

It is a one-woman bilingual play about not being able to just be. Yura demonstrates what it is like, caught between two worlds, but trying to construct one coherent entity. Her writing is charming and humorous, deft at communicating weighty ideas with a light touch. The blend of languages is cleverly rendered, and proves a surprising auditory pleasure. As performer she is focused, energetic and intuitive, with a simplicity in approach that never fails to drive home any point she wishes. Direction by Courtney Stewart introduces a delicious exuberance, keeping us amused and engaged. Sound design by Michael Toisuta makes accurate calibrations to mood from moment to moment, but several instances of scene transitions, when the performer is changing costumes off stage, require greater attention.

The custard melon pan is a confectionery half yellow, half white. Racial minorities in this country do not have the privilege of forgetting the colour of our skin. To live in a place where whiteness has imposed itself as the standard, those of us who are not, must constantly have colour on our minds, and deal with the burden of always being designated the other. When Yura returns to Japan, hoping to shed the labour that none would wish to acquire voluntarily, she discovers that colour goes beyond skin. She is again inadequate, even though her flesh and blood are meant to make colour inconsequential in her home land. We watch it dawn on our protagonist, that it is no longer she who has to find a way, but Australia that needs to make peace with its own future and origins.