Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Jul 22 – Aug 27, 2022
Playwright: Vanessa Bates
Director: Darren Yap
Cast: Gabrielle Chan, Angie Diaz, Aileen Huynh, Damien Strouthos, Shan-Ree Tan
Images by Prudence Upton
In Vanessa Bates’ The One, siblings Mel and Eric are mixed-race Malaysian-Australians, who have lived in Australia all their lives, but who have never really felt completely accepted, by either side of their combined heritage. This is not a point made too obviously, with playwright Bates choosing instead to amuse us with events surrounding the impending visit of the pair’s flamboyant mother. Much of the writing sparkles with a delightful wit, but the plot lacks focus, involving many moments that feel superfluous, and in need of a more succinct edit.
The comedy is given effervescence by Darren Yap, who directs the piece with charm and spirited vigour. Set and costumes by Nick Fry are whimsical in their appeal, and along with Verity Hampson’s lighting design, the production offers satisfyingly exuberant imagery. Music by Michael Tan is inventive and meaningful, effective at conveying a soulful quality that relates closely, to the themes of the story being told.
Lead performers Angie Diaz and Shan-Ree Tan are both captivating presences, who deliver a sense of integrity, alongside the buoyant humour that they exteriorise for the staging. Diaz and Tan demonstrate great flair for the playfulness of The One, but it is their commitment to the depth and substance of the material that keeps us attentive. Gabrielle Chan is suitably glamorous and evanescent as Helen, the self-absorbed mother. Damien Strouthos brings great energy and believability as Cal, the devoted beau of Mel. Aileen Huynh’s exaggerated approach to waiter Jess, can initially look somewhat startling, but makes good sense later in the show.
There is nothing fundamentally real about what draws the boundaries between countries, just like much of our identities are comprised of little that can be thought of as concretely material and unyielding. What is true however, is that individuals experience all manner of prejudice and degradation, based on how people think of one another. Mel and Eric have a right to feel that they belong, and it is up to us to define the meaning of inclusivity, wherever we call our home.