Lost in Shanghai February 2024

Lost in Shanghai 16 February 2024

It’s the day after opening night.

I have had sleep, a walk, breakfast with my oldest friend, lots of hydration and a massage but I still feel my feet are not quite on the ground. Live theatre is about connection. It’s the laughter (hopefully in the right spots), the ripple of warmth when the applause begins. It’s the smiling faces as you enter the theatre foyer afterwards and see your crowd. It’s tears and joy. This is what I love about live theatre that surpasses the joy I received from working in television, radio or podcasting.

It’s about savouring the moment.

Jane and co-director Tasnim Hossain doing vocal warm-up (Image by Greg Kung)

And then today, the deluge of messages. Oh goodness. So much goodwill.

It is totally humbling.

Last night I after the show I told a fellow ‘accidental’ performer that until the 2024 season of Lost in Shanghai, I had felt a bit of a fraud.

When we launched at Sydney Festival in 2022, I thought Covid would knock us of the schedule and a tiny part of me wanted that to happen so I couldn’t been shown up as a terrible actor and the story outed as ‘ordinary’ at best. One of our first major reviews was lacklustre, though not deplorable. It reminded me of the reviews I got when I wrote my first book in 2002 and the subtext was that it was a bit rich for a TV reporter to pen a full-length memoir. Subtexts like that still have this way of stoking my imposter syndrome.

Suppression requires constant effort.

For the second season of Lost in Shanghai at the OzAsia Festival 2022, I had re-written the show extensively since the death of my Mum, Bea, in June of that year. I spent a day with an acting coach Lyn Pierse who helped me with my performance and breathing. She also offered suggestions about how to give my performance more light and shade and helped me bring out the ‘poetry’ in the script. Looking back however, I can see that I still felt quite raw from losing Mum just four months earlier.

So I continued to feel like a fraud and questioned my ‘right’ to take up this space.

Jane rehearsing Lost in Shanghai (image by Greg Kung)

Along the way, I began to work on how I might use my experience as a TV interviewer, a writer and someone who tells family stories, to help others tell their stories too. I began to present workshops. This in turn helped me suppress my inner imposter.

Gradually I came to see that this story, Lost in Shanghai, may be my only unique story. I may not have a duty to tell it, but I most certainly have the motivation to tell it. And I’m sure in years to come there will be remixes.

People ask me if it’s a ‘one-woman show’. Not at all.  It’s one woman’s story but I have an amazing team behind me. Terumi Narushima’s soundscape is captivating. It delights me when I hear the different themes she has assigned to the main characters.

Terumi Narushima, rehearsing (Image by Greg Kung)

Though William Yang (co-director) stepped away before this year’s tour, he is always there to back me as is Annette Shun Wah (the former artistic director of CAAP which produces my show). They were in the audience on opening night. As we set of on our tour around the country, I am in the excellent co-directing hands of Tasnim Hossain who is also Lost in Shanghai’s dramaturg.

Production office: Tessa Leong (standing) Nicole Pingon (guest) Tasnim Hossain (co-director) Sandi Woo (background) (image by Greg Kung)

A shout out too to the CAAP team: Tessa Leong (Artistic Director), Sandi Woo (Executive Producer), Dom Lui (Administration and Digital Content Coordinator), Janine Lau and Michelle St Anne. Our touring company Arts on Tour is epic, and sincere thanks to funding agencies Creative Australia and Create NSW for allowing me to bring this story into the open.