Growing up in the kitchen

THERE’LL be more than a whiff of the old-fashioned Maltese household when actor and cabaret artist Paul Capsis brings his one-man show “Angela’s Kitchen” to The Street Theatre.

A sell-out show at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre, directed by Julian Meyrick and scripted by Hilary Bell, it’s to be part of the “Solo at The Street” series.

Capsis has been a favourite around these parts since he channelled Bette Midler, Diana Ross and Janis Joplin at the School of Arts Café in Queanbeyan back in the ‘90s.

My own fascination with his outrageously theatrical personality continued when he appeared as Johnny in Ana Kokkinos’ film “Head On”.

“I’m proud of that,” Capsis says. He’d read Christos Tsiolkas’ book “Loaded”, on which the film was based, and had “a fantastic experience”. Yet performing in film doesn’t totally grab him, since producers like to stereotype him into transsexual roles. He prefers to spread himself around, performing men and women in his current show.

Nowadays, Capsis doesn’t “choose” scripts, rather “things come to me”, as when academic and director Meyrick approached him to do a show about his Maltese origins.

Though on his paternal side he is Egyptian-Greek, it is his beloved Maltese “nanna”, Angela, who has inspired this work. Raised by nanna, who “just let me be”, he enjoyed “a magical childhood”.

“My whole growing up was in the kitchen, we never sat in the lounge,” he says.

“Even when she was old, I can remember nanna sitting at the table with a rug over her knees.”

To know her better, Capsis became “almost bilingual” and, when he went to Malta, he found that his antiquated nanna-style Maltese worked perfectly.

He is amazed when I tell him Maltese-Australian muso Nicky Bomba told “CityNews” last week that Maltese people are top in the world happiness stakes, because he remembers nanna as one of the world’s great worriers. She had come to Australia after the war in 1948 with five children to Surry Hills in Sydney so had lots to worry about.

His 80-minute show will take us on a picture postcard trip to Malta, through the war, the Depression, the trip to Australia and living with grandpa. Capsis believes it’s “universal and accessible” and he’s quite certain Greeks, Macedonian, Lebanese and anyone with a strong traditional background will warm to “Angela’s Kitchen”.

Nanna died in 2007 and Capsis got the news while working in New York. In this play, she lives on.

“Angela’s Kitchen”, The Street, June 12-22, bookings 6247 1223 or www.thestreet.org.au

PHOTO: Paul Capsis in his one-man show, “Angela’s Kitchen”… “My whole growing up was in the kitchen, we never sat in the lounge.”

 

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