The third of the reviews from our Angela Kitchen’s emerging reviewers workshop is here. It’s by Jessica Keath.

Angela’s Kitchen returns to Griffin’s SBW Stables Theatre after a well-received run in 2010 and will start a national tour in June after it’s done charming Sydneysiders. Julian Meyrick transcribed and then shaped Paul Capsis’s improvisations to create a guileless tribute to Surry Hills’ hardest working bingo fanatic, Capsis’s grandmother, Angela. Meyrick and Capsis have further refined the piece in 2012 along with associate writer Hilary Bell.

A performed family history could easily stray into sentimentality, but in Capsis’s hands it is potent and hilarious. He has the rare ability to perform honestly. Much like a clown, he marks each exchange with the audience as if in respectful conversation with us. Similarly, his treatment of space and objects is careful and almost reverential. A section called ‘Some Old Wrecked, Precious Things’ includes Angela’s crocheted rug, the jumper she knitted him and a book he stole from the Surry Hills library called ‘Paul Is a Maltese Boy’.

He was always “nuts about Malta” and had the feeling growing up that his family wasn’t from here but from somewhere over there, very far away. His obsession translates into a fascinating and tragic history lesson on the stage. Malta was the most bombed place during World War Two, with 35,000 buildings destroyed on the tiny island. Angela’s arrival in Australia in 1948 started what Capsis calls ‘The Mythical Family’ of second-, third- and fourth-generation Australians.

Capsis brings his family to life by playing many of the characters, including the women. His ability to morph across gender lines is remarkable and is explored well with particular emphasis on Capsis’s once long flowing hair in Paola Morabito’s documentary short. He is a diminutive man with a monumental amount of dignity. Angela’s Kitchen honours the woman who helped him get that way.