A Ghost in My Suitcase

Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, January 9

A Ghost in My Suitcase is a warm-hearted show about cultural inheritance and releasing the ghosts of the past.Credit:Daniel James Grant


Before you go ghost-hunting, make sure you go to the toilet. Granny offers this and other sage advice to her granddaughter in this cross-cultural coming-of-age tale.

Celeste is a "half-Chinese, half-French, all Australian" 12-year-old who travels to China to take her late mother's ashes to her ancestral home. What begins as a sorrowful journey, transforms into a supernatural adventure once nervous Celeste meets her strong and kindly Chinese grandmother, Por Por.

Granny has a rare gift. She is a ghost-hunter, who releases the mischievous and malevolent spirits who haunt the homes of the living. She has imparted her skill to young Ting Ting, the orphan who she has raised, who takes an instant dislike to the Aussie interloper.

Celeste discovers she too has the family talent for ghost-hunting, but must learn how to use it wisely. She also has to learn how to get along with Ting Ting if the two girls are to defeat the biggest, meanest spectre that haunts both their lives.

While the arc of the story is apparent from the outset, there are some magical moments in this girl-power Ghostbusters, plenty of kung fu high-kicks and kooky, spooky encounters. In a show aimed at a young audience, the spookiness stops short of scary.

But the three roles are lightly sketched, with little more flesh and blood to their characters than the phantoms they chase. And, toilet gag aside, there is little humour to leaven the rather earnest tone.

Zoe Atkinson's set is a series of moveable boxes that become steps, houses and boats. They work best when used as surfaces on which to project images from Shanghai, traditional villages and the natural world. As white cubes, they often simply clutter the stage and give it the appearance of a warehouse.

Directors Ching Ching Ho and Matt Edgerton create some charming vignettes – of a crowded bus, a canal trip and a vegetable hawker. As Celeste, Alice Keohavong​ grows from timid fish-out-of-water to a girl who finds a voice she didn't know she had. Amanda Ma's Por Por is fearless and wise, while Yilin Kong, whose background is in dance, is particularly impressive, bringing a bold martial arts athleticism to the combative Ting Ting.

Adapted by Vanessa Bates from Gabrielle Wang's book, this production from Perth's Barking Gecko children's theatre company is a warm-hearted show about cultural inheritance and releasing the ghosts of the past.

This is a worthy attempt to realise a tale across cultures with females at the core, but it tips too often into sentimentality to entirely enthral.

Until January 19

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