by Heidi Quicke
Anais West as Kate, Veronique West as Bianca – Carousel Theatre ‘Taming of The Shrew’ (Photo Credit: Christine Quintana)
Anais and Veronique West are identical twins with fiercely individual spirits. From the moment they walk into a room they command attention with their vibrant fashion choices, wide eyes, and contagious smiles. Together, they wrote and directed their first play, Lust of the Swamp Witch, which premiered at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival this September. This show represents their first paid work in the performing arts, quite an accomplishment considering they are only seventeen years old, and not yet finished high school.
The West twins credit their mother, an avid “theatre buff,” for introducing them to the performing arts. She would often take them to see plays, including summer Shakespeare productions put on by teens on Granville Island. Inspired by what they saw onstage, the twins auditioned for Carousel Theatre’s Teen Shakespeare program, and in 2008 performed in As You Like It. They found the experience so rewarding that they returned the two summers following for productions of Macbeth and Taming of the Shrew. In their minds, the best part of the program was the connections they made – both with other young actors and with industry professionals who became their mentors. The combination of their performing experiences in the Teen Shakespeare Program and their drama program at Kitsilano Secondary School encouraged them to try their hand at writing their own script. Relationships that society deems inappropriate have always interested the twins, so in Lust of the Swamp Witch they explored what might happen when a middle-aged woman gets caught up in a fantasy and tries to seduce her teenaged half-brother. They framed the story with Greek mythological references, and created a leading woman who isolates herself in a swamp to escape civilized life. As a writing team, Vee and Anais say that their close bond as sisters is helpful, rather than a hindrance. “Sometimes we’ll argue over one word for an hour,” notes Vee, but most often they are able to bounce ideas off one another and edit each other’s sections freely, because they share a common vision.
While they began by writing different scenes of the script, the play “became a big mash-up” of their writing styles: Vee describes her writing as more dramatic and realistic, while Anais is fond of casual, funny, believable dialogue. “We can learn a lot from each other, when we’re writing.”
Lara Aippersbach as Witch #1, Seamas Fera as Witch #3, Anais West as Banquo, Veronique West as Witch #2 – Carousel Theatre’s Macbeth (Photo Credit: Graham Ockley)
Now that their Fringe show has closed, things will slow down a little for these young theatre artists – but not much. In January 2011, Anais will be performing in the Arts Club Theatre’s production of August: Osage County, a dark comedy which, in her own words, is about a “messed up Southern family.” They both plan to continue writing plays, both on their own and together. Veronique hopes to study literature or creative writing, and perhaps pursue directing and play-writing. Anais would like to go to theatre school, and continue acting and writing. However, before all of that, they are working towards graduating high school in June. They are, after all, only seventeen.