In Italian culture, family and close friends always enter the house from the back door. The thinking behind this being that the back door leads to the kitchen and the kitchen is where everything happens. So, in Barking Spider Visual Theatre's latest production, One Suitcase: Four Stories, it's only fitting that we are taken round the Northcote Town Hall and enter from the back entrance.
Our host, Linda Catalano, welcomes us with open arms into her 'kitchen', and by looking at the set design by Tristan Shelley, you would think it was a real kitchen that has been in use for years and filled with many stories to tell. We take our seat at one of the five dinner tables with six other people and immediately, we all have a sense of familiarity with each other and conversation and jokes flow. Such is the power of good food!
Catalano implores us to eat! There are plates of antipasto, cheese and meats that must be consumed. Don't wait for others to go first, just eat! Throughout the course of the night, as we also feast on Catalano's generational recipes of lasagne and cannoli, she tells us tales of her zias and nonna and how they came to be in Australia. Catalano has great timing and pace as a storyteller and we hang off every word she says about the often heartbreaking stories of the women in her life.
Catalano gets creative with her stories and uses various kitchen implements and foods to portray her family members, such as a massive pot of pasta to be her nonno and pizza cutters, aubergine and a bialetti. As bizarre as this representation sounds, it works in building a stronger connection with the audience and the descriptive language she uses further enhances the visual images we are creating.
It's reached the point where I don't even need to read what a show is going to be about when it is produced by Barking Spider Visual Theatre. The company's aim is to share stories of human connection through various mediums and this one is just as strong as anything else of theirs I've had the pleasure to see. One Suitcase: Four Stories is full of heart-warming stories of love and belly-warming Italian food.
One Suitcase: Four Stories was performed at Northcote Town Hall 13-17 May 2015.
* Original review appeared on TheatrePress on 17 May