Meet the Playwright – Hung-Yen Yang

October 11, 2022

‘Accomplished streetfighter’ is not what most people think of when they look at me – a bespectacled, asthmatic, Asian male nerd. Understandably, the first thing they want to know upon hearing about my unanticipated past is, ‘How did you win so many fights?’

The truth is … I didn’t know. Fights were something I just found myself in. Usually, by the time my brain had registered I was even in a fight, I was surrounded by half-a-dozen, freshly unconscious assailants.

Intrigued at my own ignorance, I embarked on a forensic interrogation of my psyche and past. These enquiries unravelled a thread that led me deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole; through the lantana-infested foothills of 70’s Wollongong and the eerily quiet domesticity of suburban Sydney in the 80’s. My conclusion: How I won was tied to why I fought. But that only begged a deeper, more difficult question, ‘Why did I fight back, when everyone around me – my family, the media, both Eastern and Western cultures – had intoned that a youngest-born Asian male should stay firmly under the radar?’

A Practical Guide to Self-Defence is the result of that analysis. It investigates both physical and metaphysical aspects of this question. Peeling back layers of recent history, I invite the audience on a journey through a tangled tapestry of race, identity, masculinity, language and the legacies of colonisation. Through sound, slides and martial arts, I endeavour to depict the surprising, contradictory, and oft-times funny things we do and say to protect ourselves as we wrestle with humanity’s age-old paradox – how to defeat the beast within? As its title suggests, this play proffers a touchstone to those who may struggle to find sanctuary in a hostile world: All of us.

Hung-Yen Yang

20 – 29 OCTOBER