A literal translation of Arrivederci is “until we see each other again”—a phrase generally used in Italian to say “goodbye.” And that is probably the limit of my knowledge of Italian phrases. But I now know where to go to brush up on Italian, or to learn more about Italian culture, having last night visited Brisbane’s Casa Italia Community Centre (the New Farm home of The Dante Alighieri Society). The welcome was warm, and I’d certainly go back to Casa Italia.
But for only five nights in May this year, Casa Italia has been transformed into Giancarlo’s—a pizza restaurant with a core of regular customers, supplemented by a number of Anywhere Festival patrons. For only $18, Arrivederci ticket-holders had a chance to relax in cabaret-style seating—sampling free pizza to accompany drinks purchased at the bar. Best of all, we had a chance to enjoy a highly entertaining and accomplished comedy.
Hats off to the talented Nathaniel Young: playwright, character actor, producer, director. The play was beautifully crafted, and I really enjoyed his performance as the younger brother. It’s a disarmingly simple story. Maria (Sara Forgione) and Giovanni (Nathaniel Young) have moved from Italy to Australia, where they run Giancarlo’s pizza restaurant. Matilda (Vanessa Reddan) is a new employee—a media studies student who is yet to convince her mother that she can hold down a job. I wasn’t convinced that Matilda had a career in floor-sweeping, but it was lovely to see that this particular media studies student had learnt a lot of about life and relationships from various films and TV shows. Vanessa Reddan revelled in the opportunities of the role as Matilda—making us laugh at her geeky references, and love the way her character steps up to the challenges of the new job.
And so the scene is set. As Maria says, “everyone has a story.” Over the course of Matilda’s first night at Giancarlo’s, we meet their regular customers, and learn a little about their stories.
In the program notes, Nathaniel Young credits his cast with helping with a range of tasks, including re-writes, directing, and promotion. He certainly has attracted a great cast comedy actors to perform as restaurant customers: the Embassy’s Mr Parikh (Shannon Haegler ), local paragon Mrs Fitzgerald (Tammy Sarah Linde), and the lovelorn Bill Buckley (Patrick Dwyer). Tammy Sarah Linde makes the most of her part, and the interactions between Mrs Fitzgerald and Mr Parikh, and also with local postman Bill Buckley, are beautifully worked. Shannon Haegler creates a highly-believable Mr Parikh—generating many laughs, but also taking us with him as he confesses the true nature of his work. And Patrick Dwyer convinces us we have met Bill “honey-buns” Buckley, the postman with a heart who wants to deliver letters his way.
It would be remiss of me not to mention a couple of musical references in the evening. In 1980, Joe Dolce had a number one hit in Australia with “Shaddap you face.” Apparently about a rebellious Italian boy, the song went on to have a number one chart position in over ten countries, and clearly has inspired our playwright. Oh, and …slight spoiler alert…there is a “Big-Lipped Alligator Moment” … but I won’t say any more.
The venue was perfect for the show—and the show perfect for the venue. But it would be easy to see that, with very few changes, this could also be a story that would work in many locations: Greek clubs, Chinese restaurants, Polish societies, Spanish restaurants… Equally, it would be a great show for secondary school students—to attend or perhaps even to put on themselves—giving teachers the opportunity to tease out discussions about multiculturalism, identity, ‘nature versus nurture,’ friendship, and honesty. So I do hope that Nathaniel Young can add grant-writing to his long list of skills. This is a show that would benefit from Arts Queensland funding, or other philanthropic support, to ensure it reaches a wider audience.
I was lucky to see Arrivederci at the end of its brief 5-night run as part of the Brisbane Anywhere Festival 2015 (I saw the show on 22nd May 2015) . I hope that we may soon be meeting Arriverderci again in Brisbane.