Back In The Kitchen

31 May 2012 | 2:12 pm | Dave Drayton

Paul Capsis talks about returning to domestic life in Angela's Kitchen.

“It's almost unbelievable, I remember the first time we did it and they said we can have six weeks and I went, 'Six weeks? Are you kidding! Who's coming? We're going to have empty seats!' Here I am talking about an old Maltese grandmother. I don't even sing! I said to them, four weeks would've been enough,” says Paul Capsis. It's the morning after opening night of the return season of Angela's Kitchen to Griffin's SBW Stables. This season, just like the debut run back in 2010 that Capsis was so worried about, has already sold out.

The fears stemmed from stepping out of a comfort zone, lauded as a singer, cabaret and stage performer, Angela's Kitchen sees Capsis giving voice to memory as he pays tribute to his grandmother, her life and impact on him, and Malta. The writing process, aided by Julian Meyrick and Hillary Bell, was one of catharsis for Capsis; a way to honour the woman who had fostered his creativity for years before she passed away. But opening wounds is never easy.

“Because of the success of the first season we could've easily just done it again and left it as it was,” confesses Paul Capsis. “But Julian felt that maybe we could go a little deeper and also maybe reshape things. We knew it worked, but what we wanted to then do was go to this other level, and we've done that.

“The first time I read the script after working on it with Hillary and Julian I remember getting very emotional. And then there was more work done on that and there was certain things I didn't like about that first draft and certain things I didn't want to say and wouldn't say and then it just kept evolving. Even after we did that first season I spent a couple of days with Julian looking back to the transcript and seeing if there was something that perhaps, maybe, I'd be ready to put into this season. And there was. Darker stuff about the family and darker stuff about things that happened that I couldn't go to, I couldn't talk about the first time and I felt like I could go through a bit more this time."

Dark though it may be, there is an intense affection in Angela's Kitchen that inevitably warms the heart; it is personal and familiar, a story that becomes increasingly universal for all its familial minutiae.

“It's a little strange, familiar yet strange, knowing that I'm going back into that place,” Capsis says of returning the kitchen. “Running the play from beginning to end, this massive wave of grief hit me. And it was disconcerting, I thought: this is what's going to happen now? This intense grief? Because then you really sense or feel the tribute and it's happened again this time.

“When I did it the last time I had an amazing time, it was so cathartic and the connection to the Maltese community in Australia, people's response generally – people that came to see the play, regardless of their background – responded very positively to it.”

Angela's Kitchen plays The Street Theatre, Canberra Wednesday 13 June to Saturday 23; The Butter Factory Theatre, Albury Tuesday 26 to Saturday 30; Riverside Theatre, Parramatta Tuesday 14 August to Saturday 25; Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong Tuesday 28 to Saturday 1 September.

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