Review: Hotel Sorrento (The Genesian Theatre)

rsz_sorrento3Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Jan 18 – Feb 22, 2014
Playwright: Hannie Rayson
Director: Shane Bates
Actors: Sarah Purdue, Melanie Robinson, Gemma Munro, Barry Moray, Martin Bell, Oliver Beard, Lyn Turnbull Rose, Rob White
Image by Mark Banks

Theatre review
One of the key functions of art (if art has any function at all), is to express and represent concepts of identity. In the case of the Australian identity, the discussion is always a fascinating, and complex one. We are intrinsically invested in the issue, and the diversity of perspectives makes for effortlessly dynamic discourse. Hotel Sorrento was written in 1990 and talks a lot about who we are, who we like to think we are, what others think of us, and why we care. It presents a view of Australia as a nation trying to find its feet, almost like an awkward teenager in the later stages of puberty, unsure of itself but determined to establish something substantial and defined.

This production features a committed cast, including Oliver Beard who plays Troy, an awkward teenager just beginning to understand the mechanisms at play in his family that give meaning to his very being. Sarah Purdue is the strongest actor on this stage, creating a Hilary that is tender and moving despite her parochialism. Purdue’s knack for naturalism provides the perfect tone for the production and she successfully shows us the depths of her character even when the details are not all spelt out in the script. Lyn Turbull Rose is delightful and infectious in a scene talking about yearning and passion as Marge, and Martin Bell injects much needed humour in a show that tends to be overly serious at times.

Shane Bates’ direction focuses on storytelling, and the clarity of his plot is a pleasure. The show however, seems to be a bit oversimplified, and the characters seem a little analogous. We are left with a desire for something more colourful, with slightly more complication and inconvenience. Nevertheless, it is exciting to see a great script remembered and revived with such fitting respect and genuine affection.