Two short pieces written some years apart by Aanisa Vylet are seamlessly kneaded into a winningly humorous yet piercing diptych of a daughter and her mother.
In The Girl, Vylet and fellow performer Nisrine Amine enact the largely comic story of an arts student from Punchbowl struggling to reconcile her traditional, observant Muslim upbringing with her desire for the freedoms she observes in others and the feelings she has for one of the hot young guys on campus.
In her fantasies – which Vylet acts out very entertaining – the boy will fall in love with the girl and then, crucially, decide to convert (preferably before he meets her parents).
Things take a more serious turn in The Woman. The girl of the first play is now living in London and experiencing the thrills and dangers that come with being young and far from home.
Her mother, meanwhile, has been diagnosed with cancer and is doing her best to keep it a secret from her absent child. As the mother’s narrative expands, Vylet gives us glimpses of her when she arrived in Australia as a young history teacher from Lebanon, high with dreams of living near the ocean.
Vylet’s scripts blend inner monologue (externalised via a sound system), dialogue and conflicting nuggets of internet lifestyle advice into an entertaining tapestry of family conflict, youthful desire and adult regret. Director Dino Dimitriadis unfurls it with great care and a knack for invention.
The set – a mountainscape of second-hand furniture cleverly arranged by Jonathan Hindmarsh – is great to look at and provides the two performers with multiple opportunities to change the stage dynamic.
Lighting (Benjamin Ross Brockman) and sound (a co-design by Ben Pierpoint and Mary Rapp featuring the rat-a-tat of Beyonce’s Diva) are notably excellent.
The entire production exudes theatrical craft.
Her features heightened by clown-like makeup and her electrified tresses of hair, Vylet’s performance style is confidently physical (she trained at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris) and she’s adept at punching holes in the fourth wall. Good-looking guys in the audience, beware. She may want to see if you are the marrying kind.
Amine plays in a more naturalistic range and is no less effective in a production that brought the audience to its feet on a chilly Tuesday night.