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Sydney review- The One: lively, animated, colourful and enthralling

By Paul Kiely

Damien Strouthos and Angie Diaz. Photo by Prudence Upton

The One

By Vanessa Bates

Directed by Darren Yap

An Ensemble Theatre Production

Ensemble Theatre

78 McDougal Street


Season: 22 July – 23 August 2022. Bookings:

Duration: 125 minutes including interval.

One of the best ways to communicate a message is through humour. ‘The One,’ now being performed at The Ensemble, is a fine example of how a good script, professional acting and comedic storytelling can convey the writer’s intended cause effectively.

The story of post-war migrant families coming to Australia to build a better life has been told many times. The cultural challenges, the language barriers, the direct and implied racism and discrimination are regrettable experiences had by thousands. The torment, difficulties and challenges may have been hard but perhaps it somehow explains the resilience and success that many of those families have had. These kinds of battles are largely alien to people of Anglo-Saxon heritage.

Written by Vanessa Bates, ‘The One’ explores these issues from the eyes of an Australian mixed-race Eurasian family, white father and Malaysian mother. This gives an interesting perspective on the children’s lives as she poses the perennial question: What is it to be Australian?

Bates depicts an apparent well-adjusted and happy family. The father has gone, leaving his wife Helen to raise her daughter Mel and son Eric. Helen mostly resides in Penang but talks to Mel regularly by zoom. She is happy go lucky, quite wealthy and enjoys first class travel and designer accessories. Mel is questioning her relationship with boyfriend Cal; they met on a television reality show and she is now unsure if he is The One. Eric is sensible and sensitive and has a secret he wants to disclose. It involves a lazy Susan.

Family issues are about to be aired when Helen visits for her birthday party at ‘Jim’s Oriental Restaurant and Milk Bar.’ This is an event to remember: exotic food, wild dancing and life-changing revelations. There is also the problem of a crazy waitress named Jess and a shaved poodle called Fifi. The scenes are delectably colourful and side-splitting!

The story mainly deals with Eric and Mel. Only three years apart, both have the same parents and upbringing. However, Mel is European looking and Eric has Chinese traits. On appearance alone, Eric’s exposure to childhood bullying is a world apart from Mel’s. Unsure if they are of Asian or European heritage and with constant thoughts about why their father left, the pair feel cursed with a crisis of personal and racial identity.

The power of the messaging in ‘The One’ would be less if it were not for the outstanding cast.

Shan-Ree Tan plays Eric. He brings likability to the role and an assured composure which lets us know his character will be ok. Angie Diaz is wonderful as Mel. She has thoughtfully blended the traits of her madcap mother and prudent brother into her characterisation.

Playing Helen is Gabrielle Chan. Her laughter and understanding nature made her the perfect ‘Mum’ in this theatre family.

The misunderstood boyfriend Cal is played to-a-tee by Damien Strouthos. Aileen Huynh dominated all her scenes as the fearful waitress.

Compliments to Director Darren Yap are well-deserved. He has made the production lively, animated, colourful and enthralling. Nick Fry has done exceedingly well with the staging. His depiction of the typical Aussie Chinese Restaurant, with its fish tank, wall calendar and other décor attributes, set the scene for humour even before the show began.

There is much that all of us can relate to in ‘The One.’ The characters are people we know or would like to know, and the life lessons are real. And just for sheer entertainment and a good laugh, it is ‘The One.’


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