[THEATRE: Review] Angela’s Kitchen
Until June 9 / SBW Stables
In his autobiographical one-person show, cabaret diva Paul Capsis showcases his talent for storytelling, pulling us into his family history through a series of episodes that look at his relationship with his mother, his grandparents, and his family’s roots in Malta. It might not seem like much, but it sold-out its premiere season at Griffin last year and this re-mount season, and has been picked up by Melbourne’s Malthouse theatre. The secret is partly the content – in particular, Paul’s relationship with the most important person in his life, his grandmother Angela – and partly the delivery, which combines Capsis’ natural charisma (including a smile that creates a ruckus all on its own) and performance skills honed over two decades in theatre, cabaret and film.
Capsis reincarnates his various relatives with a quick costume change, a lit fag hanging out of the mouth, a change of voice or expression; the props are few and the costume changes are minimal, but certain things – a red dress, a pair of worn pink slippers – seem like special charms that allow him access to another role. He doesn’t need them, but he treasures them, and relishes the ritual of putting them on, handling them; when he passes one of the postcards of Malta that he treasured in his youth to an audience member, it almost feels like a sacrament. The set design is thrifty, and Capsis and director Julian Meyrick are resourceful in their use of it – something that Angela, who survived poverty, hunger and the bombing of her home during World War 2, would no doubt approve of.
Angela’s Kitchen gives us an insight into both Angela’s experience of alienation and loneliness immigrating to Sydney as a young woman, and her grandson’s experience growing up queer with absentee parents in a culture that still segregated ‘wogs’ (for anyone who’s seen Capsis’ breakthrough performance in Ana Kokkinos film Head On, this insight into his formative years has extra resonance). It’s funny, frank, defiantly upbeat, and wonderfully tender; it’s storytelling at its best. If you missed out on tickets, it’s a shame; if you got ‘em, dare yourself to sit in the front row, right in Angela’s kitchen, as it were.