"Timely revival of Australian classic"
by Rebecca Paton for remotegoat on 21/08/10

Hotel Sorrento is a play about identity and loyalty, examining what it means to be part of a family and a country. It's also a story about sisterhood and the place of women in modern Australian society. Set predominantly a sleepy Australian seaside town, the audience becomes intimately involved in the lives of three sisters, reunited after ten years apart when one of them, Meg (Alix Longman), writes a Booker nominated novel which is largely based on her own family's past.

Hotel Sorrento was written in the 1990s but - at a time when another, real life Australian Booker Prize nominee hitting on the same themes is challenging the English cognoscenti and dividing critical opinion - the play's themes and messages are just as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. It was therefore surprising that director Spreadbury-Maher chose to set the play in the early 90s, which gives his depiction of Australia a distinctly kitsch and slightly stereotypical feel. In striving to capture "Australia" he may have fallen into the trap that the characters warn against - a lot can change in ten years, and even more can change in twenty. As Meg says, "Australia can't be contained in this sort of broad brushstroke you're asking for. Great big vision makes very empty pictures if you don't attend to the details."

Saying that, the cast largely mastered the complex vowels which form the backbone of the Australian accent and the audience witnessed a fairdinkum BBQ and some fairly accurate depictions of Australian family dynamics. The token Brits did not escape the time warp and special mention must be made of the costumes which (especially for cosmopolitan Pippa and the very English Edwin) were a wonder to behold.

Alix Longman is wonderfully melodramatic and brooding, bringing to life the complex character of the writer, Meg and in drawing out her internal conflicts as she struggles with a promise made to her sister's dead husband, and her integrity. The casting was spot-on for Maggie Daniels as Hilary and Shelley Lang as Pippa.

The Cock Theatre continues to out-do itself in set design and lighting, with clever cuts allowing the action to move seamlessly from Meg's English flat, to a pier or beach in Sorrento, to the Moynihan family home. The only gripe is the distractingly tight seating, which is a awkward fit for your average sized sheila and nigh on impossible for a bloke around 6 foot to sit comfortably in. Perhaps this is a sign of the Theatre's increasing popularity, but I do wonder how long they can sustain selling these seats at £15 per head without discounting for the contorted experience.

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