Lis23 CurtainCall GregKung

Image: Greg Kung

Behind the Curtain of Lost in Shanghai

In February and March 2024 our team from Lost in Shanghai (proudly produced by CAAP and tour arranged by Arts on Tour) did the Sydney (via Darwin) to Hobart; no, not the yacht race but a ten venue national tour.

As a touring production, Lost in Shanghai was no maxi-yacht (and here I will leave my ocean analogies). We were a team of five: me, the performer and writer, Stage Manager Jen Jackson, Production Manager Sammie Read, Musician/Composer Dr Terumi Narushima and her partner in life and microtonal tuning, Kraig Grady.

Lost in Shanghai is the story of my Mum’s Eurasian upbringing in pre-Communist Shanghai.

Directed by William Yang and Tasnim Hossain (doubling as dramaturg), it premiered at Sydney Festival 2022 fully booked. We also performed a season at Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival in 2022. 

Working with CAAP was just a beautiful experience all around. I first pitched the idea of Lost in Shanghai to Artistic Director Annette Shun Wah and director/photographer William Yang in 2020. From the first meeting they encouraged but always asked direct questions about the purpose and focus of the work. I needed this. As creators we have to know our ‘why’ as much as our ‘what’. I feel extremely fortunate that the COVID lockdowns were lifted in time for us to have in-person developments after months on Zoom. In 2022 CAAP’s artistic leadership passed from Annette to Tessa Leong. There wasn’t a moment of hesitancy on my part. Despite different leadership styles, Tessa effortlessly slid into the role of Artistic Director and I felt lucky to have her knowledge and passion behind our show. I enjoyed working with Executive Producer Sandi Woo who juggles much in her role but always seems to remain, calm, clear and ready to laugh. And Dominic Lui, CAAP’s Admin and Digital Content Co-ordinator is a skilful, valuable and supportive part of the team who accompanied me during the community engagement portion of the production. CAAP finds the right people to work on its productions. They are direct, professional and focused on the mental health of their creatives. I have never worked in such a caring and supportive environment as I did with the production. 

On the personal side, surprising and rewarding is how I’d describe the month-long tour. You have to manage a ‘travelling’ version of yourself: while you can’t do the school drop-off and pick-ups obviously, you still have household admin to attend to while taking care of boring day-to-day questions like, when will I wash my clothes? How will I fit a reformer pilates bed in my bag? And is it ok to eat a meal before and after the performance?

I enjoyed the company of my colleagues. I hope they say the same about me (at least publicly). I felt I was able to spend plenty of time in good conversation (which helped keep my mental health robust) but I was also perfectly able to find quality solitude too. Here are some other reflections from the road: 



There’s the show you deliver and then there’s the show as viewed from an imaginary drone. Suddenly the audience are integral in the performance with all their distinct and sometimes distracting sounds! From a distance, there are other details to take in that you don’t think about during rehearsals: the stage, the seating, the soundscape, the lighting; all are different in each venue. 

The challenge (I’m not a trained actor), was how to create and hold the bubble of ‘you and me’. People asked me about how different this was to working in television. In TV, the studio setting creates the bubble, but in theatre the bubble is porous and expandable.


Image: Greg Kung 



I expected after-show Q&A’s to be tiring. On the contrary, they were joyful. As performers we need to reach beyond the proscenium arch in every way we can and one of the best ways to do that is to answer audience questions.


Q&A with Kush K T Kuiy


Sense of place:

Exploring the ten cities/towns and theatres (walking to venues where possible) I’d look out for signs of the local history and how the theatres were built where they were. Were they historic theatres, or had they been shoe-horned into those addresses for planning/commercial/political/cultural purposes? I enjoyed thinking about these questions as I walked around.


The Lost in Shanghai team getting lost in Burnie! 



Before our final performance on a Saturday evening in Hobart, thoughts of my mother became overwhelming. My Mum, Beatrice, never got to see Lost in Shanghai, although she knew it was being created. She died in 2022. What would she feel about the show? Telling people about our family history, our problems, our shame? I felt gutted to think I was no longer going to be telling her story. CAAP’s Artistic Director Tessa Leong came into the dressing room and asked me if I wanted a hug. I gratefully accepted. And then I went on stage and told Beatrice’s story, knowing it would not be the last time though I can’t be sure what form next time will take.


Tasnim & Jane at Bunjil Place



People often asked me why I called the show “Lost in Shanghai” It’s because I am guilty of drowning myself in nostalgia. It’s because my mother’s family lost their way. It’s because the past is gone forever. What I don’t tell them is that being lost is not a terrible state to be in. It’s temporary. We are all lost at some stage. And there’s nothing better than arriving home from a show tour. Standing at the front door, smelling the familiar smells of the house, accompanied by wheelie bags, wondering what lies ahead. 


Final night dinner in Hobart


About Jane
Jane Hutcheon is a writer and performer. She has written for The Guardian, SMH, The Age and the ABC. Her previous career was at the ABC where she was a foreign correspondent in China, the Middle East and Europe. Jane also created and hosted the TV interview series One Plus One from 2010-2019. She wrote and performed Lost in Shanghai (2022-24). She’s currently developing her latest book Rebel Talk, the art of powerful conversations, into a work for theatre.

[Note, if you’d like to read Jane's posts from the tour, and sign up to her newsletter, please visit:]



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