Along with writing about the new shows as they start to roll out in 2011, I feel I have to catch up on a few shows from last year. And while we’re with Griffin@the Stables, I can’t go past making mention of Paul Capsis’s exquisite tribute to his grandmother – simply titled Angela’s Kitchen. Here below is pr blurb and some helpful links, including Paul talking about the show on ABC radio. See my point about how groovy Griffin is getting? The penny has dropped: this theatre company at least understands that audiences want access to more information than what can be squeezed between the adverts in a Playbill produced program – and that for an exorbitant fee! I also feel I have to make note of this show because it didn’t get a mention at the Sydney Theatre Critics Awards in January this year. I could be wrong there, but I didn’t notice. Maybe the show came to late in the year. If it was considered and passed over, all I can say is I think my judgement is superior to that of my colleagues – ooops!
By Paul Capsis and Julian Meyrick
5 November – 18 December 2010
‘I think about my grandparents walking along this road – And now I am here. I’m in Malta. I’m looking at absolutely everything and trying to drink it in. I feel connected. I feel like I am home.’
In 1948, Angela left Malta. Having gathered up five children, she sailed out on the Strathnavar, leaving poverty and the war behind. Her destination: Australia. In Surry Hills, she could build a bright new life.
If only she could first learn the language, finish shoring up their dilapidated house, find new friends, get the racist neighbour off her back and keep her son away from sly grog queen Kate Leigh’s kids.
Back in Malta, someone else has made a journey. Making his way along Kalkara’s glistening harbourside, a young man with flowing black hair has returned to claim his past. Paul Capsis is walking home.
A journey that begins at a kitchen table becomes a sprawling family history and a fitting tribute to a much-loved matriarch.
Told simply and truthfully, Angela’s Kitchen is an astonishingly evocative piece of autobiographical theatre from one of Australia’s most versatile performers. For this intimate and incredibly personal new work, Paul Capsis is joined by director Julian Meyrick (October) and associate writer Hilary Bell (The Falls).
Hear Paul and Julian on ABC 702 (recorded 7 November 2010)
I have been a long-term fan of Paul’s and consider him a friend. I remember the days when he was starting out in the 1980s, when he couldn’t get a gig on Oxford Street because he didn’t mime – goddam he used his own (incredible) voice). At a certain point Paul took a depth breath and moved from his embodiments of global divas (dead and alive) – Janis Joplin, Bette Milder, etc, to presenting songs as himself – Paul Capsis. That was not an easy segue. He also got some acting chances, most notably in the film Head On where we discovered how f&%king powerful and fearless he could be. Then along came Barrie Kosky who knows exotic talent when he sees it – he especially loves the rare birds others are too afraid to collect (Melita Jurisic being the most florid example). Capsis’s rendition of the goddess Diana in The Lost Echo was one of the highlights of that brilliant production.
And then in Angela’s Kitchen, at the end of last year, Paul took another step closer to the centre of himself. This was a play about younf Paul growing up and his relationship with his grandmother, surrounded by other colourful members of his migrant family. I remember Paul being tremendously upset when his grandmother died. He loved this woman and she clearly loved him. And he was sorely distressed about a fight brewing in the family over the fate of his grandmother’s house (to complicated to go into here) now she had passed on. I was walk past this one-storey Surry Hills Federation cottage nearly every day. It’s where Paul grew up, and it is such a wonderful Palace of Wogdom! Every original feature submerged under layers of turgid brown paint, amateurishly-layed tiles and aluminium window and door frames. So definitive is the Maltese makeover I think it should be slapped with a heritage protection order from the National Trust.
Which takes me to the play. I’ve never quite known what to make of Julian Meyrick’s work – as writer, director, dramaturg, general high achiever in the areas I’ve never dared go (given the fact that I think I am at least as smart as him). But let me put all reservations aside, if I have any, to honour him for his work with Capsis on this show. Along with what feels like a very strong contribution from writer Hilary Bell. The way the drama was put together was so subtle and effective – a beautifully crafted piece of work. As we moved back and forth from the kitchen table in Surry Hills to the street in Malta where his grandmother, Angela, grew up, a wonderful portrait of both the intimate (love) and the public (migrant life) unfolds. The use of very simple props found in the kitchen cabinet was about as artful as this kind of devising can get. Best of all, this homage to Angela was also, by implication, a self-portrait of Paul Capsis himself. Now we certainly know where he got that fire in his belly!