The One Review


Theatre has an extensive history of catering to all white senior audiences, and The One is no exception. The show was advertised as a production that “colourfully unravels the complexities of what it means to be Eurasian in contemporary Australia,” written by Vanessa Bates and directed by Darren Yap.

Damien Strothos and Angie Diaz in The One. Photo by Prudence Upton.

The story follows Eric and his sister Mel who are planning a birthday party for their mother who is visiting from Malaysia. The plot then centres around organising her party at ‘Jim’s Oriental Restaurant’ where they did ballroom dancing as a kid. This narrative is coupled with an exploration into being between two definitions of culture and the struggle it places on an individual’s sense of identity.

As I entered the theatre, I was excited to see this play representing a shift in an increase of multicultural stories being placed on the main stage.

As I sat in the seating bay looking out onto Jim’s Oriental Restaurant, a set topped off with Mahogany carpet and Chinese characters hanging on LED boards, I was yet to realise that this 80’s influence would bleed into the way this topic was addressed in 2022. It became apparent when moments of experiencing being Eurasian in Australia were coupled with dog-eating jokes and nun chucks to make the peppered audience feel at ease. That this play was catering to the social climate of the 1980s.

Angie Diaz, Shan-Ree Tan and Damien Strothos in The One. Photo by Prudence Upton.

It felt like every experience of racism addressed in the play was sugar-coated to make it palatable for the generation that inflicted it. It did not cause the audience to question why they laughed but condoned it. My friend turned to me halfway through and said, “I feel like an audience member is going to ask my Chinese name in the foyer”. As I watched it, I felt like I was missing something, some deep irony or message to the play where the writer had taken on these tropes to reclaim them. But as the play progressed and the end was approaching, I realised that there had been no subversive point, this was a piece written for an audience who laughed in all the wrong places.

As someone who has been lucky to see a lot of theatre, the construction of the plot was jagged. We jumped from a family argument to a COVID crisis that moved in and out of the space with no meaning or relevance. The Chinese food items projected onto the wall felt tokenistic and pointless. Every time we got close to a truthful moment about living as a Eurasian in Australia, we were thrown something completely random to divert us from the conversation. We were unable to sit with the relationships and experiences because we were flung out of them at every point we got.

The whole experience made me feel sad about how little theatre had come. I felt sad that I had brought my friend along, assuring her it wouldn’t be a stereotyped identity crisis about what it would mean to be Eurasian Australian. I felt sad that she was the only Eurasian Australian in the audience. I felt sad that this is what theatre is in 2022.

1 Star.

Anonymous, 20


The One is supposed to be a play about the Eurasian experience in Australia, addressing the internal and external conflicts that are an inherent part of being mixed race. As a Chinese-Australian woman who grew up in regional Australia, I was so excited to see a show like this being put on. Finally, my perspective! People who look like me on stage! A chance to change the narrative about what it means to be “mixed”!

Angie Diaz, Gabrielle Chan and Damien Strothos in The One. Photo by Prudence Upton.

I was absolutely disgusted. Even within the show’s 1980’s context, the set and script were worse than tokenistic – they were offensive. Having to listen to a room full of white audience members laugh at slurs, while caricatures of East Asia danced around in sexualised traditional clothing, was truly a kick in the teeth.

The most distressing aspect of this play is a blatant disregard for the hyper-sexualisation of East-Asian Women. This piece communicated that being labelled as “exotic” is a positive alternative to experiencing racism, and lightly brushed over the terrifying and often violent realities of being fetishized/dehumanised in this way. It is deeply unnerving to think that white men leaving that theatre might still think it is a compliment to refer to me in the same ways you might talk about an imported carpet.

Shan-Ree Tan and Angie Diaz in The One. Photo by Prudence Upton.

This is not to say that most of the issues addressed in The One aren’t real and honest aspects of being Eurasian, but the delivery was beyond disappointing. It wasn’t a subversion of stereotypes, it pandered to them.

I left that theatre feeling distressed and uncomfortable.

1 Star.

Anonymous, 21

Ensemble Theatre’s The One plays at the Ensemble Theatre in Kirribilli until the 27th August. Buy tickets here.