The Girl/The Woman is the culmination of 12 years’ work. Written by actor, writer, auteur and Western Sydney native Aanisa Vylet, The Girl was shortlisted for the Philip Parsons Young Playwrights Award in 2015 and received a nomination for the West Australian Arts Editor Award Perth Fringe in 2016. Its partner piece, The Woman, was part of Belvoir’s Artist Residency Program.
Until tonight, at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres, audiences have the opportunity to see the two pieces performed together for the first time, presented by National Theatre of Parramatta in association with Apocalypse Theatre Company.
Directed by Dino Dimitriadis, The Girl/The Woman is the story of a young woman (Vylet) from a conservative cultural background who has grown up in southwest Sydney and is now venturing out into the world on her own. She’s a university student struggling to morph into a modern woman, but feeling constrained by her strict upbringing and her family’s expectations of her. We watch as she works to conform socially, to win the attention of a romantic interest and to simultaneously continue to acknowledge the norms with which she was raised.
The two-part piece also focuses on the plight of the young woman’s mother (Nisrine Amine). Originally from Lebanon, this is a woman who arrived in Australia many years ago in search of a better life. But in working hard to provide a good life for her children and her husband, has she achieved the better life she envisaged for herself on her arrival in Sydney? We gain an insight into the hopes and dreams she harboured, as well as the struggles with which she continues to grapple.
The Girl/The Woman has been pieced together with enormous care and allows Vylet to showcase a sizeable skillset. She trained at Ecole Jacques Lecoq, a school of physical theatre in Paris. In portraying ‘The Girl’, Valet uses her impressive mime skills to tell the story with wonderful clarity and great humour, conveying her character’s social awkwardness and her efforts to blend in socially with her peers. Her physicality makes for some excellent entertainment, including her performance of Beyoncé-style dance moves. Vylet is an engaging performer and, as both a writer and performer, has provided a compelling experience for audiences here. While speaking specifically to the battle between conservative values and the realities of modern Australia, this is a story likely to resonate with any young person who has felt the pressure to change their behaviour to fit in, with the weight of family expectations.
Throughout the 90 minutes of storytelling, Amine assumes a number of guises but is principally tasked with depicting ‘The Woman’, and it’s a warm, loving and strong-willed character that she delivers. Amine slowly reveals a woman of great integrity, a woman who (much like her daughter) walked wide-eyed into a new world despite familial pressures, and a woman who puts those around her above all else.
Each of these stories unfolds on Jonathan Hindmarsh’s remarkably striking set, comprising a sagaciously constructed series of household furniture items that require careful navigation in order for the performers to traverse them safely – a smart nod to the journey of the central characters. Sound and lights are also crucially important aspects of this production. Benjamin Ross Brockman ensures lights move us seamlessly from one location to the next and are integral in evoking mood. Meanwhile, Ben Pierpoint’s and Mary Rapp’s sound design is atmospheric and a further testament to the care that has gone into creating this piece. Recorded passages, providing the audience the internal dialogue of ‘the girl’, merge beautifully with Vylet’s physicality.
Perhaps the only aspect requiring further thought is the extent to which audience interaction is incorporated into the piece. Arguably, the connection Vylet otherwise establishes with her audience in telling these stories is sufficiently strong on its own.
The Girl/The Woman offers a story that is pertinent, potent and highly entertaining, packaged in an original theatrical presentation. It’s also a work that demonstrates why Vylet is an artist worth keeping an eye on in times to come.
THE GIRL / THE WOMAN – DATES & TIMES
Remaining dates: Saturday 7 July –7:30pm
Tickets: Adult $49, Concession $44
From the Box Office (02) 8839 3399 or www.riversideparramatta.com.au
Transaction fees: phone $4.60, web $3.60 and counter $2.60
Discounts available for Riverside Theatres’ Members.
Venue: Riverside Theatres – Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta
Duration: 90 minutes
Please note: This production contains adult themes and strong sexual themes