I arrived at Casa Italia Community Centre 4 minutes late of Arriverderci’s supposed starting time and with a very fractious mindset. I was greeted by a very polite Italian lady who offered me pizza and ushered me to a seat. Let me first take a moment to comment about the venue before I discuss the events that followed. The Casa Italia Community Centre is 37 years old and steeped in culture, from the outside façade to the inner design this place felt like a little slice of Italy. I really don’t think they could’ve chosen a better place to stage Arriverderci, with its adornment of Italian artefacts the Casa Italia breathed authenticity.
To make a good pizza, first you need a strong base, and to stage a good play you need an appropriate setting, and to me the Casa Italia was the Giancarlo’s café. Now a good pizza also needs a good sauce (reviewers note: every time I say ‘a good’ in this review it is supposed to be read with an exaggerated Italian accent, trust me it makes the experience more enjoyable), and a good play needs a good script. Like the sauce that bonds the ingredients onto the base, the script connects the characters to the place. The writer/director/protagonist Nathaniel Young is brilliant throughout this play, but it is his ability to create a hilarious script, with killer one-liners, classic gags and an array of complex characters that is the most commendable. The plot although heightened feels entirely plausible, and in its humour it doesn’t lose its depth containing some very interesting insights into what it is to belong.
A pizza with just its base and tomato sauce is not a good pizza, it lacks flavour and personality, and I can say that Arriverderci did not lack personality or flavour. The cast really brought this play to life, working magnificently as an ensemble, with an authentic group dynamic and very strong characterisation. The stars of this show however are Nathaniel Young (as Giovanni Giancarlo (and in the role of the fiery Pepperoni in my pizza play)) and Patrick Dwyer (as Bill Buckley (and the fan-favourite bacon), both portraying wonderful characters that elicit the most laughs from the audience. For all you Simpsons Fans the character of Giovanni Giancarlo is practically the real life embodiment of Luigi Risotto with a little bit of wise guy chucked into the mix. To Nathaniel’s credit he was able to make this walking Italian pizza-chef stereotype his own, it was not merely a cheap imitation but a wonderfully entertaining interpretation with a surprising depth to the man. Patrick Dyer was excellent as the somewhat unsure yet loveable postman, gracefully delivering his humorous one-liners.
Honourable mentions go to Shannon Haegler (as Mr Parikh (and the un-wavering pine-apple) and Tammy Sarah Linde (as Mrs Fitzgerald (and the flavoursome yet potentially poisonous mushroom) they had very defined characters and in Haegler’s case a great story-telling ability. For me the olive of this proverbial pizza (play) was the audience participation, at moments I felt like an active participant while at other times I was merely an observer in the tale, although not necessarily a bad thing, for me the inconsistency caused a little bit of confusion. The ending for me felt a little too cheesy and predictable, but honestly what is a pizza without cheese? It is nothing, it is not worth naming.
This play was a spectacular spectacle, containing all the elements of a good pizza, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone. I feel families would benefit the most out of this production as it was the writer’s intention to both entertain and present this idea (that ‘family isn’t about biology and all about who you grew up with’) and both of which are excellently achieved. Although practically anyone would enjoy this show, and if you didn’t like any of my pizza analogies all I’ve got to say to you is “Aw Shaddap you face”.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 15.