A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars

A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars

Hero photography by Clare Hawley

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  • Summer Nights at The Blue Room Theatre, Perth (2019)

  • Kings Cross Theatre, Sydney (2019)

  • m2 Gallery, Sydney (2017)

  • Development: The Collective at National Theatre of Parramatta (2017)

  • Verge Festival, Sydney University Dramatic Society (2016)


Video by Clare Hawley, with music performed by Liz Cheung

2019 TOUR

Tabitha was born in Australia. Her dad wasn't, but that's just the end of the story. A Westerner's Guide to the Opium Wars takes audiences as far back in Tabitha's family tree as she knows: to the early 19th century and the First Opium War. With help from a sock puppet, Queen Victoria and a couple of Broadway showtunes, she tries to understand her cultural heritage.

A Westerner's Guide
is a genre-hopping escapade of heartfelt memoir and biting historical comedy. Made by a team of second-generation Australians, it's for anyone who has been asked "But where are you really from?" often enough to start asking themselves the same question.

This is genealogy like you've never seen it before.

Stage Manager Luciana Nguyen
Production Designer Victor Kalka


“[M]asterfully balances funny and playful with thoughtful commentary on the West’s persevering habit of romanticising Orientalism. The mood from the audience was one of thorough enjoyment… A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars provides a high value production and Woo herself delivers a warm and engaging performance.”
- Steph Murphy (FringeFeed)

”For all the historical shenanigans and the show stopping numbers that make us cringe with the underlying racism threaded into the classic lyrics, it is that personal journey that is the most heart-warming, honest, and intensely moving. Woo leaves a little bit of herself up there on the stage...”
- David O’Connell (X-Press Magazine

”[A] wonderfully insightful show that involves the whole community.”
- Laura Money (The Fourth Wall)

”[Tabitha Woo] inhabits her family’s story with charm and great loyalty, and comes out a winner.”
- David Zampatti (Seesaw)

m2 Gallery (2017)

“Very interesting heritage you’ve got there. Very interesting.”

Tabitha is half-Chinese and half-Anglo Australian, a mix that leads her to question her connection to the Chinese side of her family. A Westerner’s Guide takes audiences as far back in her family history has she knows – to the early 19th century and the First Opium War. With help from a sock puppet, Queen Victoria and a couple of Broadway show-tunes, she tries to work out the value of her heritage.

Director Kevin Ng
Designer Victor Kalka
Lighting Lucy Dinh
Sound Aaron Cornelius
Stage Manager Luciana Nguyen
Assistant Producer Simone Scheuanghane


"[T]his is an engaging and intriguing work that reminds the audience that everyone has come from somewhere, whether it be generations ago or recently, and that we should be keeping the stories of the past alive."
 - Jade Kops (BroadwayWorld)

"The show is often fascinating in the way it uncovers decades and centuries of information behind Woo’s smiling exterior. Its juxtapositions of cultural influences from all over the world makes for a rich experience..." 
- Suzy Wrong (Suzy Goes See)

Verge Festival (2016)


It has been said that Tabitha’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather started a war, which would forever change China’s place in the world. But when she looks in the mirror, she can see herself belonging to both sides. 

Part history, part confession, A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars wonders whether it’s worth holding onto the branches of the family tree.

Stage Manager Adrien Stark
Graphic design Victor Kalka


"Woo has managed to create a multi-genre monologue which is at once comedically self aware, historically intriguing and poignant memoir."
- Brendan James O’Shae (Pulp Magazine)