Lyrical descriptions of multi-layered personal Australian identity.
Writer Louise Helfgott and Director Susie Conte are experienced in creating impressive theatre. In Light in her Eye they work within the limited space and facilities of The Lady Beaufort venue, part of a curated Fringe World showcase of works by women. Together Helfgott and Conte produce a sensitive contemplation of the many fused layers of identity that lead a young woman to recognise the conflicts of family heritage in multicultural Australia, and the potential to determine her own identity within herself and society.
Inspired by Anoush’s appearance and “exotic” ethnicity, her friends organise a dress up party with an “Oriental” theme. An expert when it comes to themed dress ups, with an extensive collection of clothing for the purpose, the exotic Orient leaves Anoush at a loss for an appropriate outfit. As she delves through her chest of eclectic costumes and accessories, she considers the various implications of her own heritage and her perpetual status as an outsider. Guiding her introspections, she deliberates over how she is seen and received by others, debating whether she has a true homeland anywhere. Arriving in Australia from Iran as an infant, Anoush’s family are part of the Armenian diaspora and, as Christians, became a persecuted minority after the revolution. Her personal recollections are intertwined with her family’s stories, her mother’s nostalgia for a disappeared Persian culture, and the deeper histories and conflicts that have kept driving them further from their original country.
Hair loose, in a simple black costume, Ana Ika depicts Anoush as a complex character, trying to establish her place in a world that insists on placing her within a simplistic category. Her gentle voice delivers Helfgott’s densely-written lyrical passages with ease, her physical depiction of using the audience as a mirror making the most of the small stage area while emphasising Anoush’s unconscious youthful grace. Ika seizes the opportunities for humour, displaying her collection of tourist t-shirts to offset the scathing commentaries on whether she should wear hijab, niqab or something similarly contentious in response to the pressure to perform as an exotic princess.
Unpacking themes of the layers of a personal identity, Ika presents a child’s sense of rejection and shame from her unique appearance while growing up in Sydney. Later, visiting Armenia, her sense of relief at being around others with a similar appearance is dispelled by the further rejection as her speech identifies her as being Australian, not belonging to a community bound by shared experience of suffering. The script and delivery combine to present an intensely personal and specific exploration of self-acceptance, with wry dreams of self-creation while acknowledging key aspects of her identity within her mother’s devotion, her daughter being the “light of her eye”.
Finding her centre, decrying the views of others as irrelevant, the seizing of her own perspective and rejecting the agony of definition is simultaneously intimate and universal. This short play covers historical and geographical vastnesses but triumphs within the character’s determination to establish her own mind. Fascinating in the limitations of the space and time within the Fringe performance, Ika’s talents promise more on a larger stage.
3 ½ stars
Light in her Eye
Presented by Tempest Theatre
Written by Louise Helfgott
Directed by Susie Conte
Performed by Ana Ika
The Lady Beaufort, Beaufort St Community Centre, Mt Lawley
2-4, 9-11 and 16-18 February 2018
Part of Fringe World 2018
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level