We all remember different things about our
grandmothers: the smell of a particular perfume, the taste of a particularly
revered childhood dish, the sound of a particularly soft voice reading bedtime
stories. Yet while the grandmother/grandchild connection is undoubtedly a
special one, it's not often talked about, much less given a thorough, in-depth
exploration in its own piece of theatre.
Australian cabaret theatre performer Paul
Capsis goes beyond traditional storytelling when giving audiences an insight
into his own relationship with his grandmother in Griffin Theatre's Angela's
Kitchen. Donning his grandmother's apron, shoes,
and dress, Capsis uses both literal and metaphorical postcards to paint us a
portrait of life from the small island of Malta to the backstreets of
inner-city Sydney, describing his grandmother's childhood, marriage, migration
to Australia and eventual rise as matriarch of a 30-plus family. It's as much an
intimate portrayal of grandmotherly love as it is an exploration of a small boy
coming to terms with cultural identity and the pitfalls of family life.
Capsis re-enacts his childhood memories
around his grandparents' kitchen table with warmth and good humour. At an age
when it was generally considered weird to be hanging out with one's own granny,
Capsis resists taunts from friends and siblings to become his grandmother's
companion, accompanying her on work shifts cleaning the Surry Hills post office
and to her weekly Bingo nights.
Through these stories, Capsis reveals
himself a member of a family much like any other - loud, crude, annoying,
rueful, loving, compassionate. Whatever character Capsis is bringing to life at
any one time, be it his five-year-old self, his indifferent mother, his loud,
imposing grandfather or his chain-smoking aunt, it's always a pleasure to
watch, carefully re-constructed on the page by Capsis's co-writer Hilary Bell
and directed onstage by Julian Meyrick.
The set provides a warm, inviting space in
which we are free to imagine the scenes he describes: a Maltese thoroughfare,
his grandparents' backyard, a hospital room, a war-torn village, a bomb raid
shelter, and, yes, Angela's kitchen, filled with tchotchkes that remind her of home.
A large projector displays old family photos as Capsis describes members of his
family to the audience with the conviction and passion of someone who is proud
of who he is and where he comes from. Angela's Kitchen is Capsis's ode to a
woman he loved very much; it is the performer opening the door to his past, and
inviting all of us in. Laura Parker
Paul Capsis is a family man. Not in the three-kids-and-a-wife-named-Sharon kind of way, but in a way that inspired him to create his autobiographical one-man show Angela’s Kitchen
. Growing up, and throughout his adulthood, Capsis was deeply connected to his grandmother Angela until her passing in 2007. Angela’s brave migration from Malta to Sydney (specifically Surry Hills) in 1948 with her five children, and her unwavering passion for building a new life for herself, has inspired Capsis to create this show about migration, poverty, courage and love.
In Angela’s Kitchen, Paul Capsis tells a story of courage and determination that starts at a kitchen table and walks through the life of a matriarch who inspired an entire family.
In this intimate work, Capsis pushes his performance boundaries by playing both himself and Angela, citing the experience as both challenging and rewarding. “This is the first time doing a solo piece of theatre, drawing on my own life experiences and cultural background, and playing myself,” Capsis says.
With direction by Julian Meyrick, Capsis believes the work gives audiences a better understanding of Angela’s experience of life in Australia and an understanding of his connection to Malta. “[Julain] tortured me with months on end of rewrites at 4am in the morning and running lines so often I literally lost my voice." Andrew Georgiou