Arts & Entertainment

The One – REVIEW

Angie Diaz, Shan-Ree Tan, Damien Strouthos in The One at The Ensemble. Photo: Prudence Upton

Vanessa Bates combines elements of her own memoir, the collective psyche of immigrant offspring, sketch comedy, and a dash of fish(y) sauce in her new play, The One, now on at The Ensemble.

Bates draws on her personal experience as a half Malay, half Anglo child, coming to Australia with her siblings and trying to assimilate in an environment that kept repelling all things different. In the play, Mel (Angie Diaz) and her younger brother, Eric (Shan-Ree Tan), both adults and living lives far removed from their Malaysian roots, anxiously prepare for the arrival of their matriarchal, traditional mother who many years prior had gone back to live in Malaysia.

Angie Diaz, Gabrielle Chan, Damien Strouthos. Photo: PrudenceUpton

Said mother, Helen (Gabrielle Chan) still has a psychological hold on her two children who twist themselves in knots to ensure they have her approval – and to be “the one” she most loves.

Mel is in a long term relationship with Cal (Damien Strouthos), who is irrevocably Australian and as eager to please Mel as she is to please her mother. They both have been given the monumental responsibility of caring for Helen’s male poodle, Fifi, much to Eric’s chagrin. Eric spends a lot of time brooding and openly displaying resentment of his sister.

Aileen Huynh. Photo: Prudence Upton

Eric and Mel were Ballroom Dancing champions in their childhood, until one fateful competition ended their dance careers and scarred each with a trauma that followed them into adulthood.
If this all sounds quite intense, never fear, the play is high farce.

Nick Fry’s set is impressive. Claret-red, patterned carpet, tall plastic plants that don’t try to look real, garish furnishings, and the outer wall of Jim’s Oriental Restaurant and Milk Bar, the local Chinese restaurant where a special home-coming banquet will take place.

Shan-Ree Tan and Angie Diaz. Photo: Prudence Upton

Jess (Aileen Huynh) is the reluctant, surly waitress who seems to be single-handedly running the restaurant. Huynh is a scene-stealer, hilariously deadpan, delivering barbs like a striking viper.

It’s not a perfect production; the acting feels a little over the top at times, the script could be tighter, and there are a few tropes that are [big sigh], however, those grievances are not enough to mar this very funny, enjoyable piece of theatre.

The One
Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli
Until 27 August

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