Sunday, December 19, 2010

Angela's Kitchen

Griffin Theatre Company presents the World Premiere of ANGELA'S KITCHEN by Paul Capsis and Julian Meyrick at the SBW Stables Theatre, Sydney.

Paul Capsis has written, with dramaturgical shaping by Hilary Bell, a remembering of his maternal grandmother in this play ANGELA'S KITCHEN. It feels to me like a dreaming of memories and the resultant text itself is very simplistic both in its structure and idiom.

In contrast to this relatively naive writing, the work is framed within a very sophisticated conceptual design by Louise McCarthy, coaxed and guided by the director, Julian Meyrick. Lit beautifully and sympathetically by Verity Hampson - an artist of a growing and consistent contributions to the worlds we are seeing on Sydney stages.

Indeed, the visual aesthetics are an enormously seductive force to the contextual understanding of the performance. Using a spare and simple set of furniture objects and properties, and a set of clothing and shoes that are part of our daily unconscious as costume, gentle Brechtian titles projected onto the theatre walls order our responses to the developing narrative and are further wrapped in images of Malta and other environs that urge our imaginings to couch and expand the events more vividly in our experience of the performance.

However, the real reason for the acceptance of ANGELA'S KITCHEN as a transcendingly memorable night in the theatre is the beauty of Mr Capsis' sense of love for his subject, Angela, and need to tell this story. Beginning in an extremely naturalistic, straight-forward mode of simply acting as narrator, and passing through more gradual modes of sophisticated theatrical techniques, he finishes in an emotional place of a deeply cathartic self exposure. The last moments when Mr Capsis stalls his exit and looks back at the folded kitchen table that was the centre of Angela's world, the exemplary craftsmanship of this artist, nakedly reveals for the audience both the objective command of his instrument as a tool for the clear mutual expression of the narrative 'journey' but also the powerful and courageous subjective revelation of his own emotional 'feelings' / life to pierce our senses and give us the great gift of human compassion and grief" (this reminded me of the great gift that Mr Capsis gives to us in the mode he is more famous for, in his "Cabaret" performances- mesmerizing courage and ruthless truth-telling, at great expenditure of his own passionate identification). Here it is again - daring indeed - pure naked artistry).

What was also powerful to observe in the SBW Stables Theatre, where we can see each other across the stage space, was the audience, who clearly also had recent histories of the migrant experience in Australia. The brickbats and bouquets of it. Much memory, much feeling, much pleasure in the gains,and, even in the losses of that journey, were palpable during and overwhelmingly, accumulatively, at the end, in the very warm curtain call of thanks that was given Paul Capsis. Clearly this work had great meaning and impact for the captured audience present the night I attended. Maltese or otherwise.

So, ANGELA'S KITCHEN another confirming power of the theatre as a living and irreplaceable part of a civilised society.The community sensation of a shared experience strengthened all of us present and the harmonizing and homogeneous understanding of those about us was reflected in the eye exchanges and polite courtesies to each other as we clambered down the vertiginous wooden steps of the old stables converted theatre space. The theatre is not dead, even, and especially, in this world of email and mobile phone. The aligned breath of the community sitting in the same darkened space sharing this particular story of Paul Capsis and his grandmother, Angela, was one that was able to be universal and a kind of reflection of our own little journeys/stories.

I believe ANGELA'S KITCHEN is to tour around Australia.

Go for the simple story and you will surely come away with a greater sense of the whole of the human experience of love for each other in a genuinely heightened and humbling manner. A Gift from this modest team of theatre makers, of great value.


James Waites said...

I saw the matinee yesterday - and agree with everything you say - you have written a lovely reponse.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, Kevin, although I think you are generally spot on in your perceptions. I thought this was one of the most weakly performed plays I have seen. Mr Capsis may be an interesting performer but his acting has no subtlety or range. The piece may be inspired by affection but much of it was rather nasty and arch. What disturbed me most though was that there was no exploration of homophobia in it at all. I was amazed that Mr Capsis studiously avoided this subject. Very sad.