Wednesday 18 September 2019

La Nonna - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

There is nothing more important to an Italian than family and food. In his cabaret show La Nonna, Samuel Dariol presents a homage to his grandmother that is full of love, warmth and admiration. Dariol recreates moments of her life that have led her to be where she is now and that have also led him to where he is now. Incorporating song, storytelling and plenty of food, he explores how his queerness connects with his nonna’s migrant experience and how this has formed part of his identity.

Dariol's selection of songs perfectly encapsulate the emotions his nonna is feeling at those moments, such as the abusive relationship she found herself in and how she coped with her new found independence after her husband moved back to Italy. Dariol uses these songs in a way that changes their original meanings, making them sound fresh and exciting. His cover of “Feeling Good” (previously covered by Michael Bublé) is sung from the violent perspective of his grandfather, which is then followed by Tina Arena’s “Chains”, putting the focus on the fallout of the end of this relationship.

Wearing a big black wig and a blood-red dress, Dariol takes on the role of his nonna and he does so with extreme attention to detail in how she moves, walks and talks. This is further made evident when he briefly becomes his grandfather with the intimidating and aggressive physicality he adopts. He has gone to painstaking efforts to replicate the ambience of a traditional Italian kitchen with his nonna spending her time preparing salami, soup and offering us - her guests - a constant stream of food. Mangia mangia she exclaims.

There is an immense respect that Dariol has for his nonna and the stories he chooses to tell keep us interested in this woman colourful life. However, the show falls short on examining exactly how these events tie in with Dariol’s queerness. As entertaining as they are, you can’t help but question how his nonna’s Tombola nights with friends and shopping at Preston Market relate to Dariol’s attempts in defining his queerness. Even though he touches on this towards the end, seeing how this links to her life throughout the work would allow it to develop into something more affecting and profound.

 It’s impossible to walk out of La Nonna's kitchen and not want to give your loved ones a hug. Beyond that, it is a show about understanding that while your older relatives might be from a different generation, they have lived a life full of laughter, joy and sadness and the importance of ensuring these stories do not disappear so that we can learn and grow from them. 


Venue: The Rattlesnake Saloon, 146 Lygon St, Carlton. 
Season: 26 - 29 September | 6:45pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc and Group 6+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

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