Nisrine Armine and Aanisa Vylet. Photo by Robert Catto
The Girl the Woman
By Aanisa Vylet
Directed by Dino Dimitriadis
A Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta Production
Riverside National Theatre of Parramatta
Cnr market and church streets,
Season: 28 June – 7 July. Bookings: https://boxoffice.riversideparramatta.com.au
There is a note from the playwright in the program booklet which asks, “I hope that this is relatable – regardless of your gender, background, or age”. Well, if that’s a measure of success, The Girl the Woman achieves it with flying colours.
Aanisa Vylet has not only conceived the idea and written the play, she also performs as The Girl the Woman. Also on stage is Nisrine Armine, in a supporting role as the mother and who also narrates some sections and voices the thoughts of The Girl.
The play is about a late-teenager from a Muslim family in Punchbowl, Sydney. She is grappling daily with trying to respect her religious traditions yet must live in a western open society with all the temptations that come with it, including sexual frustrations and fantasies.
Later in the play we discover more about her mother and the challenges she faced as a pregnant migrant from Lebanon who came to Australia in 1970. The daughter and the mother, both lack understanding of each other’s needs and wants but ultimately discover that they are more similar than they thought.
Under the skilful direction of Dino Dimitriadis, there is much action and movement in the story. It is never dull or boring and we are even treated to some miming and belly dancing. There are simulated train journeys to Blacktown and Kings Cross and the minor audience participation embellishes the storyline (sympathies to the man in seat C36).
The talents of the lighting and sound designers, Benjamin Ross Buchanan, Ben Pierpoint, and Mary Rapp add to the enjoyment of this production.
Noteworthy also is the unique creativity of the set designer Jonathan Hindmarsh. The set is a fixed jumble of an assorted collection of wardrobes, drawers, chairs, lamps, cabinets and a piano. Somehow, the actors can move from scene to scene by climbing on or moving the furniture to suit. I enjoyed knowing that the mother spent much of her time in a wardrobe (loungeroom) watching Al-Jazeera.
The technique of masking The Girl the Woman in heavy, whiteface makeup with electrifying black hair, almost frightening in appearance, helped to de-stereotype the ethnicity of the storyline. This story is played out in homes across the country everyday irrespective of religion, culture or ethnicity. That is why it is relatable to everyone, as we can identify with the feelings and challenges depicted by the characters when we were young and not-so-young.
The Girl the Woman is an enjoyable first play by Aanisa Vylet. She is an excellent storyteller and presenter. There is laughter, drama and plenty of theatrics in this 90-minute production so try and get along as soon as possible.