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The Girl The Woman

Photo by Robert Cato

Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta, in association with Apocalypse Theatre Company present, THE GIRL THE WOMAN, in the Lennox Theatre, at the Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. 28 June – 7th July.

THE GIRL THE WOMAN, is a new Australian play by Aanisa Vylet.

THE GIRL has existed as a play before and the THE WOMAN is a recent development. The combined work, then, has been 12 years in the making. Ms Vyet combines her training skills as an actor from University of Western Sydney and her training at Jacques Lecoq School of Movement Theatre in Paris and Barcelona to find her own theatrical ‘language’ and form to tell this story. THE GIRL, in white face, uses her movement skills to carry most of the story, whereas THE WOMAN employs the spoken word and another actor, Nisrine Amine, to journey into maturity.

These skills are harnessed by a very empathetic Director, Dino Dimitriadis, who has proved himself with a visual style in the recent METAMORPHOSIS production and has carried with him his team of the same creative associates: Jonathan Hindmarsh with a striking Set Design of a mountain of collected greyed-furniture, chock-full of ‘magic’ draws and cabinets, for the actors to clamber on and utilise; a detailed and dexterous Lighting Design by Benjamin Ross Brockman; and an extraordinary Composition and Sound Design by Ben Pierpoint and Mary Rapp. Mr Pierpoint brings an imaginative soundscape with stellar technical prowess easily as sophisticated and creative as his other recent profound work on productions such as THE NATURAL CONSERVATORIUM FOR WISE WOMEN and HOME INVASIONS. The Sound Design does a great deal in keeping the show moving and co-herent. All four of these artists continuing to attract and facilitate theatre of an arresting kind. (Mary Rapp is a new addition to these forces.)

THE GIRL, is a young Australian/Lebanese brought up in the traditions of a Muslim faith, but who has accepted her indoctrination with a light weight and questioning mind – while quoting precepts of behaviour she breaks concentration by warning herself to stop thinking. Through her reach at university and a sexual appetite which she finds hard to resist or control, she becomes a secret rule breaker exploring the temptations of a city night life and assuming the urges of a fandom for all things Beyonce – her invisible father is ignorant of her ‘rampages’ but her mother suspects and recognises the traits of a rebel. What has been forbidden THE GIRL becomes her one desire and in a shocking interlude on the dance floor of a night club in the guise of this is what Beyonce would do, aggresses an unknown blonde male (not acknowledged in the program) – a figure come to flesh from her fantasy – to the point of a kind of mouth-rape-kiss! A collision of body and mind, desire and tradition. It is truly shocking in its fierceness and appetite.

Her only hope for reason and unhindered freedom is to escape her home. She travels to London where she can address her ‘needs’ without religious or cultural taboo. There she lives the life of an emancipated WOMAN, whilst lying to her mother at home. She lives with another compliant blonde man, strangely similar to the one we met on the city dance floor in Australia! Wilful, indulgent and eager to push her boundaries.

Her Mother, too, has secrets, one of them, a past life of an unwanted pregnancy that forced her to leave her village in Lebanon to seek refuge in Australia. It seems the traits of the daughter are ‘seeds’ inherited from her mother: (Nancy Friday’s bestselling book”My Mother, My Self” comes to mind!) THE GIRL discovers all of this when she returns home to assist her Mother through a gruesome terminal illness.

Ms Vyet uses her intelligent, flirtatious energy to cover her character’s transgressions with seductive charm. However, the power of THE GIRL’s sexuality does not quite let us be completely compliant to her distractions. Ms Vyet’s physical skills are admirable and the pertness of her demeanour carries us along with her ‘adventures’ – she is a ‘naughty’, divided GIRL.

Latterly, the creation of the loyal and dutiful Mother, played by Ms Amine, delivers a counter-picture of the self-sacrificing WOMAN, attempting to appease the oppositions of the two cultures/traditions of the Muslim and the Australian. It is as moving as it is culturally shocking. The women bear the brunt of all – the men are invisible or weak. They are, in this story, either invisible oppressors or visible victims. The MOTHER knows both well – will her daughter, with her knowledge, be able to find a way?

This is a very attractive production with an interesting cultural conundrum to digest. There are strengths galore, the only real weakness is the relative ‘poverty’ in the voice work – the bodies are shimmering with knowledge of communication, the voices, however are shallow in range to keep a balanced harmony of the instrument of both actors, even with the use of microphone.

After three years the National Theatre of Parramatta seem to be finding a consistent level of quality. THE GIRL THE WOMAN is an interesting 90 minutes in the theatre.