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SAIGON: Between Life and History

Listen to SAIGON: Between Life and History

Photograph of Helene Embling, Nguyen Duc Duy, Benjamin Law and Beverley Wang

Photograph of Helene Embling, Nguyen Duc Duy, Benjamin Law and Beverley Wang at the Wheeler Centre — Photo: Jon Tjhia

People – families – of diaspora carry the traces of change: new circumstances, different languages, uncertainty and often trauma. How do the ghosts of history and geography affect the everyday experiences and identities of people today? And what happens when the places where your parents and grandparents lived no longer exist – or you don’t share a language with your parents because you grew up in different places?

For Asia TOPA 2020, theatre director Caroline Guiela Nguyen presented SAIGON – a moving family saga tracing the paths of 11 characters across history and space. In this podcast, her translator, Nguyen Duc Duy, joins Australian writer Benjamin Law for a conversation about language, theatre and comedy, and this incredible play that places the art of translation at centre stage. They also explore the intergenerational, intercultural dimensions of their work – treasured by audiences, but largely missing from international stages. Hosted by Beverley Wang, with translator Helene Embling.

Presented in partnership with Asia TOPA.


Portrait of Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law writes books, TV screenplays, columns, essays and feature journalism. He’s the author of the memoir The Family Law (2010), the travel book Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012) – both nominated for Australian Book Industry Awards – and the Quarterly Essay on Safe Schools, Moral Panic 101 (2017). 

He also created and co-wrote three seasons of the award-winning SBS TV series The Family Law, and his sold-out debut play Torch the Place (Melbourne Theatre Company) ran February–March 2020.

Portrait of Beverley Wang

Beverley Wang

Beverley Wang is a journalist, broadcaster and creator of the ABC podcast It’s Not A Race, which has been hailed as a ground-breaking series opening up conversations on race in Australia. She is also the producer and co-host of Stop Everything! on ABC RN, focusing on the politics of pop culture.  

Portrait of Nguyen Duc Duy

Nguyen Duc Duy

Nguyen Duc Duy was born and grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In 2012, Nguyen commenced a French translation major at the University of Pedagogy, and during that time translated on a variety of topics from piping and plumbing, waste management to butchery. In 2015, Nguyen met theatre director Caroline Guiela Nguyen and started providing translation for arts and culture. Nguyen translated the stories gathered from Vietnamese people in Paris and Ho Chi Minh City as part of research for Caroline Guiela Nguyen’s acclaimed theatre production SAIGON, which charts the story of Vietnamese exiles living in France. SAIGON premiered at the 2017 Avignon Festival and is presented as part of the 2020 Asia TOPA festival in Melbourne.

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