Ensemble Theatre’s production of “The One” is an eccentric story about being Eurasian and where you fit in society. The theatre production has started its run on July 22nd all the way through to August 27th. The concept and theme is quite interesting, as we don’t see many shows theatre, TV or film which specifically focus on an Eurasian theme and backstory. This one does.
Directed by Darren Yap (C.A.A.P.’s Double Delicious, Merrigong Theatre Company’s Letters to Lindy, Griffin Theatre’s Diving for Pearls) and written by award-winning playwright Vanessa Bates (Barking Gecko Theatre’s A Ghost in My Suitcase, Sydney Theatre Company’s Darling Oscar), the premise of the production is focused on the main protagonist “Mel” ( played by Angie Diaz – Amazon’s Nine Perfect Strangers, TV’s Underbelly, Power Rangers) who:
“Has a lot on her plate, never mind caring for her mother’s prized poodle! In this sizzling hotpot of food, culture and identity, THE ONE colourfully unravels the complexities of what it means to be Eurasian in contemporary Australia.”
There are other star studded cast in the production including Gabrielle Chan (TV’s Hungry Ghosts, Jasper Jones, Here Out West) playing ‘Helen’, her mother returning to Australia from Malaysia. They are joined by Shan-Ree Tan (Ensemble Theatre’s Nearer the Gods, Sydney Theatre Award winner for Yellow Face) who plays ‘Eric’, ‘Mel’s’ brother, Damien Strouthos (TV’s The Twelve, Home and Away and Stan’s The Tourist) who plays Mel’s partner ‘Cal’ and Aileen Huynh (TV’s Neighbours, Cleverman) who plays waitress ‘Jess’.
In an interview with the cast and director Darren Yap about “The One”, some of the cast members shared what bringing this production to life means for them.
“I think performing in “The One” is actually one of the first times I have actually been able to really and honestly tell the story of my lived experience on stage or in a film about the ups and downs of being Eurasian in Australia,” says Diaz, who plays ‘Mel’.
“Not only telling my Eurasian story to the public, but also it’s the first time I have actually been able to play an actual Asian character. It is a wow moment for me as I can literally just be me and show who I am and my identity on stage.”
For Aileen Huynh, who plays the waitress “Jess”, the show means something different to her than to Diaz;
“For me, the experience is different to Angies. I think I have only ever played roles where the background is of Asian descent specific and at times because I was one of the only person of colour in the cast, I would feel insecure and unstable”.
“Working on “The One” is very different and quite comforting and I have been really enjoying as I feel at ease because I am working with others who look like me, being Asian. I am finally not the only person who is there to represent “my culture” because it has to be there, but I am one of many who represents the culture and the story”.
Taking a deeper dive into the character in “The One”, reflections and comparisons were made by the director Darren Yap and the other cast members, on acting in Australia and the struggles they have all encountered on their journey in the entertainment industry. For Shan-Ree Tan, this is one of the rare opportunities for him to play a character closer to home. In “The One” he plays ‘Mel’s’ (played by Diaz) brother ‘Eric’;
“I think I have had acting experiences where I have been able to play several roles that haven’t really had anything to do with my cultural background or my ethnicity. This is what is nice about this play as it is one of the rare opportunities where I get to play a character close to home. I am a second generation Chinese and Australian man, and I think the play gets into the nitty gritty of identity in an entertaining and accessible way.”
“Mine/ our lived experiences growing up Asian and Australian, the only connection we really had to our cultural background is how and where we grew up, so for many of us it becomes this tenuous thing that you feel uncomfortable about at various points of your life. This is what the play explores and I hope it is something the audience can take from it”.
For Gabrielle Chan who plays the mother of ‘Mel’ and ‘Erics’ mother ‘Helen’, acting in this play is not that different from other roles she has played in her career as she has done many Asian mother and grandmother roles. The only difference with playing ‘Helen’ is that it’s the first time she has played a non “Tiger Mum” character. Chan also reflects on how working with the other cast and crew members have taught her a lot about Asians who come from an Eurasian experience.
“Being in “The One” is special because despite the fact that I have played many mother and grandmother roles in my career ( due to my age), this is one of the first times that I play a non “tiger mum” role. For most shows that involve Asians there is this misconception that Asian mothers are “tiger mothers”, who make their children study hard and pick up piano lessons,” Chan shares.
“For “The One”, I am married to a white Australian man and playing the role of ‘Helen’, has given me an insight to issues of identity when it comes to Asians who have an Eurasian background. I used to always think because Eurasians are part white, they get that benefit that those who are full Asians don’t. But after working with these wonderful people who have an Eurasian background and playing out this story, I now have a different insight and perspective into their issues – that they are treated as the “in between” – neither white and neither Asian.”
Finally, director for the production, Darren Yap, talks about is feeling of accomplishment that he was able to direct Vanessa Bate’s script and work with Asian/Asian Australian actors.
“I feel after hearing what everyone else has said, I share a bit of everyone’s experience. One of the reasons I left acting for directing many moons ago is because of the negative stereotypes Asians were given to play. Being a director, I get to direct the angle of the story. But really, I haven’t had many opportunities in like 25 years to direct an Asian Australian story, so this is special for me”.
“I have directed many “western style” stories and I question why it took so long for me to come full circle. “The One” is very close to home for me and it has given me a sense of belonging. I have spent 53 years asking myself am I more Chinese or more Australian, and this is an issue the play brings up.”
Interested in checking out “The One”? For those in Sydney or if you will be in Sydney, please go and check it out at The Ensemble theatre which is located at Kirribilli. The show has started it runs on July 22nd and will run all the way to August 27th, so you have time to get tickets. Please go to this link for more details.
We will have another piece with more interviews for “The One” out soon.