Reviews & Media

Anguli Ma: a Gothic Tale

‘In a good year for novellas I was haunted by Chi Vu’s Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale, set in Melbourne’s Vietnamese community in the 1980s. It is fresh and disturbing.’ – The Australian.

‘Every now and again, along comes a book so interesting that it almost takes your breath away, and Anguli Ma, A Gothic Tale  by Chi Vu is just such a book.’ – Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog.

‘Though 39-year-old Chi, who works mostly as a playwright, is one of the few writers of her generation anthologised in the recent Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, she will be unknown to many readers. Her reworking of a Buddhist folktale in which a strange male abattoir worker with bags of stinking meat moves into Dao’s all-female boarding house in Footscray, is the other stand-out of this series. Set in the Vietnamese community of early 80s Melbourne,Chi finds a perfect chemistry between Australia’s history of serial killers in decrepit suburban wastelands and a refugee community’s repressed memories. It is genuinely terrifying.’

Delia Falconer, The Australian.

‘Anguli Ma- A Gothic Tale is a highly original work drawing on Buddhist and gothic traditions; it should find a larger audience internationally, if not here.’

Hoa Pham, Mascara Literary Review.

‘The writing in Anguli Ma has an extraordinary specificity of texture, mood, and angle of vision, as Chi Vu moves back and forth between close attention to realistic detail and hyperreal, noir, hallucinogenic coloration…The trauma it narrates is stitched into domestic suburban ordinariness with dark, sharp brilliance, to produce ‘a jewel of terror’. That is Chi Vu’s highly original achievement.’

Nicholas Jose, The Wheeler Centre.

‘The writing in Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale is terse, graphic, at times beautifully compressed and charged with insight. The story never explains its themes, just presents its often macabre details in sharp, precise relief. The characters are likewise sharply drawn, never explained. We get to know them through their prejudices and suspicions and delusions, as well as through their plainly described yet still cryptic actions.’

Dao Strom, DiaCRITICS

‘Chi’s adept practice across forms and projects is infused with a consistent awareness of the constructedness of culture and language, a fierce engagement with emotion, and careful attention to the texture of interactions.’ – Tseen Khoo, The Banana Lounge

‘There is a subtlety in this strange and quite unique little book.’ – Walter Mason, the Singapore Review of Books.


The Uncanny

‘Chi Vu reflects powerfully on the experience of fleeing Vietnam.’ – Heidi Maier, The Big Issue 25 Jan – 7 Feb 2013.

‘For Chi and her Vietnamese family, who arrived on an unreliable boat described in Conradian terms, cheating death had the same interior result as death itself…’ – Harry Brumpton, Australian Book Review, March 2013.

‘In a beguiling formulation Chi Vu speaks of her birth language as a set of ‘limbs’ that remain “under my jacket, weak and pale, yet ageing with the rest of me”, as the ‘alien’ limbs of English grow “strong through daily use”.’ – Sophia Barnes, Mascara Literary Review.

‘Chi Vu’s The Uncanny contains one of the most memorably funny anecdotes in the book.’ – Right Now.

‘One of the stand-out moments was Chi Vu’s story of family migration from Vietnam, and his father’s distress at a Melbourne sign that read ‘NO STANDING ANY TIME’. Chi Vu’s sister, their main English-translation resource, confirmed that it was indeed true: there was to be no standing at that spot at any time. Vu’s description of the scene that follows (how to wait for a bus in a pose that could not be construed as standing, if it came to a matter of persecution) was incredibly vivid and funny…’ – Karyn Noble, Lonely Planet.

Geordie Williamson in The Australian.

Thuy On, Sydney Morning Herald.


The Dead Twin

‘A chilling onstage experience that combines beautifully distorted imagery with a spectacular soundtrack … 4 stars.’ Sofia Monkiewicz – Arts Hub

‘Chi Vu’s The Dead Twin is work by an Asian-Australian playwright who is a master at her storytelling craft.’ Lian Low –

‘A must-see for lovers of the horror genre, and those interested in new immersive, site-specific work.’ Fiona Spitzkowsky –

‘Playwright Chi Vu and director/performer Deborah Leiser-Moore have crafted a complex ghost story that riffs like a recurring dream, doubling back on itself in trauma and desperation…If your heart bleeds at the mere whispers of gothic fun, this show should be in your calendar.’ John Back – TimeOut Melbourne

‘A gripping tale of a family who struggle with the death of a twin son.’ Samsara – Planet Arts Melbourne

‘Chi Vu’s courageous writing highlights the deep scarring of losing loved ones to violent death…This production is masterfully choreographed by Deborah Leiser-Moore.’ Suzanne Sandow – Stage Whispers.

TimeOut profiles the Flight Festival.

Radio National’s Books and Arts: listen to Raimondo, Deborah and Chi chat about new plays.

The official #‎flightfestival15 newspaper in issuu!

Flight Festival playwrights talk to Art Olympics about writing for theatre.

Chi Vu and Bridget Mackey chat about Acts of Violence.


Banh Chung installation-performance

‘The audience is invited to move between pieces via a 50 minute audio track; to be impacted by the site performers without truly interacting with them; to be affected by the audio performers whilst choosing which visual cues will accompany the performance. Audience members are invited into the space a few moments apart, in twenty minute intervals, by one of the performers. This allows each experience to differ slightly – and sometimes significantly – from every other experience: as one might in migration or dislocation.’ – Stephanie Lai, Peril.

‘Chi Vu’s performance installation Banh Chung is a meditation on war and migration focusing on the Vietnamese experience. It is named after a sticky rice, mung bean and slow-cooked pork cake, traditionally made to celebrate Tet, the Vietnamese New Year holiday. It’s a sort of audio tour that takes in mythological Vietnam, and the legend surrounding the Banh Chung recipe; Vietnam during the civil war, and the legacy of violence and displacement it left behind; and the diaspora, through the voices of two lovers reunited in Australia. Minimalist physical theatre (Amanda Ma, Rani Pramesti) and six stages tied to the preparation of the dish consume the space, and you get a slice of Banh Chung at the end (it’s delicious).’ – Cameron Woodhead, The Age.

Bánh chưng’ và nỗi niềm của một thế hệ di dân – by Lili Từ, Radio Australia (in Vietnamese).


Vietnam: a Psychic Guide

Published in Meanjin 1/2001. Adapted for the stage and performed at the North Melbourne Arts House in August 2003. Republished in theMacquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, published outside Australasia by W.W. Norton & Company under the title The Literature of Australia.

‘This is a happy and deceptively simple combination of the physical, visual and textual… Director Sandra Long’s interpretation through movement and word pictures is fascinating.’ – Kate Herbert, the Herald Sun.

‘A stylish theatrical production’ – Rachel Fensham, RealTime.

‘Almost the entire length of the North Melbourne Town Hall has become the staging area, giving the performance a depth and variety of visual focus points that is beautiful and charming. At times it seems a dream landscape, an impression increased by the slow dance and mime movement of the actors… Chi Vu has a self-aware sense of humour, and her position as a foreigner in the land of her birth, and an outsider in the country in which she lives, provides a useful standpoint for her sharp observations.’ – Helen Thomson, The Age.

‘This is one of the strongest pieces I’ve seen articulating a new preoccupation emerging in contemporary Australian writing.’ – Stephanie Holt, Meanjin.


A Story of Soil

The Age (Melbourne season)
A Story of Soil makes clear ‘the pain often hidden behind apparently successful assimilation. It also suggests…that new understandings and alliances are happening between members of the younger generation…Soil is used as the metaphor for each character’s yearning to find roots, and this desire is shared by Simon as well, his Anglo-Saxon identity offering no special privileges when it comes to making the difficult transition to adulthood.’ – Helen Thomson, The Age.

‘A STORY of Soil tells a story that is both familiar and strange in contemporary Australia. It is the story of children of immigrant parents adjusting to cultural differences within the family unit, emphasised by generational divide…The first point of friction is always language, and writer Chi Vu skilfully handles the code-switching from English to Vietnamese. The children hold the power here, able to employ whichever language best suits their intentions: Vietnamese for pocket money, English for defiance.’ – Martin Ball, The Australian.

Vibewire (Sydney season)
‘Hai Ha provides a strong performance which is complemented by the twists of humour provided by Jonathan (Yen Nguyen), Tien’s annoying younger brother. Unable to speak fluent Vietnamese, Jonathan is also caught in a cross-cultural struggle to understand his parents. The theme of soil runs throughout the play, providing a useful metaphorical of Tien’s connection with Australian soil and culture. Others such as the chats between the uncle and father over VB Beer illustrate that even the parents are influenced by Australian culture. Particularly impressive were the performances by the father (Tam Pham) and mother (Anh-Dao). Their dynamic combination effective in portraying how Vietnamese parents think and react as they witness their children assimilate into Australian culture.’ – Anne Tran, Vibewire.


Thou Shalt Not Kill (live art)

‘Most impressive…This is one of those very intimate challenges for an audience of one and as such not for the faint hearted. It is a strong and moving work.’ – Suzanne SandowStage Whispers.