The Girl/The Woman at HWY Festival

I’m a polite feminist. A liar. Beyonce on a bad day.

Western Sydney artist Aanisa Vylet’s The Girl is a bittersweet comedy about the life of an Arab Muslim woman, following a narrative that leads to the collision of body and mind, desire and tradition, language and heightened theatricality. This is an exciting new Australian work that probes the female psyche and draws on ideas of difference to highlight the wild and vulnerable side of women, across generations and ethnicities. In her first Brisbane outing as a writer, Vylet presents a pared back version of the work for the audience feat. homemade hummus and falafel.

Rosie spoke with Director Sanja Simic about this new iteration of the work, and why audiences across Australia should be seeing this show. Read the full interview below:

Sanja Simic

What drew you to The Girl, and why did you feel this story was one that you wanted to put on stage?

Aanisa submitted The Girl through our open call for applications late last year and we were really excited by her as an artist. Todd, our Artistic Director, and I were both drawn to the work as a contemporary story-telling experience.


I was really interested to see how the wider themes in The Girl would resonate with a Brisbane audience – it’s such an exciting, female-focused work, and one that I think will speak to women across cultures. 


The Woman is a pared back version of Aanisa’s full work The Girl/The Woman, a work some of our readers will already be familiar with. How does this iteration differ from the original production of the script, and why are you presenting an edited version?


Aanisa has done an edit of the original text for this iteration – she’s really excited about an opportunity to present the text in the context of a new-work-in-development festival. We’ve taken the pressure of presenting a finished product off of the work (and Aanisa!) on the night and I’ll be encouraging conversation and play with the cast for the reading.


Being part of HWY is a unique opportunity for a playwright to road-test the latest draft of a work, in its developmental stages, and have the audience respond in real time – they become part of the development process, which is so rare, but exciting for the artists involved.


Aanisa Vylet’s The Girl/The Woman first opened at the National Theatre of Parramatta in 2018, but this showing of the piece will mark Aanisa’s Brisbane debut as a writer. How do you think Brisbane audiences will respond to this work? What can they expect?


Patrons who’ve been to HWY before know that the festival offers an opportunity to see the work through a different lens – this reading will be a stripped back version of the latest iteration of the text. It’s an opportunity for Aanisa to hear her writing in front of a completely different audience with a team of artists who are coming to it for the first time – these new perspectives will inevitably shape any future life that the work might have outside of HWY.

The audience can expect a committed showing of an important new Australian work – an entertaining fusion of monologue and radio play, I think The Girl will offer up some great questions about the way we engage with female sexuality – socially, culturally, and globally. 


How does The Woman fit into the 2019 HWY program? What do you hope to achieve with this presentation of the work?


Aside from being funny, political, and female-led, Aanisa’s work also gives voice to a very specific coming of age experience. The Girl is written from the perspective of a young Arab-Muslim woman; a work that probes ideas around sexuality and autonomy in the present day. 


Aanisa’s work is unlike anything else in the HWY program, which speaks to the diversity of the 2019 HWY festival, while being a work that aligns clearly with La Boite’s mission and vision as a producing house for formally innovative, contemporary, and culturally relevant theatre practice in Brisbane and Australia more widely.


You’ve been a Creative Producer for La Boite Theatre Company since 2017. What kind of works do you hope to see La Boite producing in the future?


One of the things I love most about working at La Boite is the incredible diversity of form, content, and artists/companies from one season to the next. As a director and producer, I get excited about great Australian writing, plays that are experimental in form, and work that’s plugged into the current socio-political climate.


I think theatre is inherently political and that representation is critical, so as long as we strive to represent the breadth of the world around us and tell stories that reflect multiple perspectives/experiences, we’ll hopefully be in a position to expand our reach and grow our audience(s) well into the future. 




Favourite production you’ve ever seen?

This is an impossible ask! Some works that I’ve loved include Schaubuhne’s Hamlet, Benedict Andrews’ Moving Target, Ontoreorend Goed’s Once and for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen, and Sisters Grimm’s Summertime in the Garden of Eden.

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

Zurich, Switzerland. I have family there and it’s a great base to travel out from – I’d visit Germany, Italy, Croatia and Bosnia during the trip.

Dream show/role to perform in?

I don’t perform, but I have a long list of plays I’d love to direct!

Plays or musicals?


A hobby you have beyond the theatre? 

I was learning German for a while, I’d like to get back to it eventually.

What’s next for you after this show?

I’m in the midst of delivering the rest of our HWY festival and after that jumping straight into producing our production of Romeo & Juliet.

HWY Festival opens March 26 2019 where you can catch this work and many other exciting stories. You can get your tickets here.

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