Bakehouse Theatre
Until 25 Feb 2017

Review by Brian Godfrey

1996 – a year of loss for “Smoking With Grandma”’s central character, Maia. It was the year before the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese – and the year that Maia’s Grandma died.

Her grandmother had fled from her Chinese island to Hong Kong many years before, and while cleaning up her squat, Maia discovers her diary that reveals the grandmother’s life.

The trouble with Cathy SK Lam’s script is that Grandma’s life, although that of a refugee, seems to have been rather humdrum. The harrowing experiences that would be normally associated with refugee status don’t translate that well in this production.

Lam’s direction presents the audience with some nice visuals, but has quite a few unnecessarily long pauses: and whilst the idea of using a dress to represent Grandma is good in concept, the practice of it here does not seem to work (this reviewer does admit to not quite knowing why).

However, the two performers, Angel SY Chan and Katherine Leung, are very good. As the Production list doesn’t give character names, it is almost impossible to guess which one is Maia and which is (one assumes) Grandma. “Maia” is absolutely captivating, whilst the other performer enthralls us with her Origami and Chinese lute playing skills.

The whole thing is a fascinating insight into another culture. But while the idea is evident, the putting into practice of it needs more workshopping.

Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)