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The Italians - Available on Demand

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by Jenny Hatton Mahon (subscribe)
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Family, Folly and a Failed Tiramisu
Earlier this year, I saw The Italians live at the Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney, and my only disappointment was that I couldn't get tickets to see it a second time with friends who I knew would love it.

I was excited to learn that Australian Theatre Live, who record and distribute Australian theatre productions to audiences across Australia and the world, are releasing The Italians in May this year as a digital theatre production.

Written by Danny Ball, The Italians is a fabulous and fresh take on family, capturing with a clever eye and keen sense of humour what it's like to grow up in an Italian-Australian family. The story delightfully traverses a wide gamut of topics including ethnicity, queer identity, class and culture, domineering parents and what it takes to make a good tiramisu. It's a cleverly written observation of the lengths people go to to fit in and make it in this land of plenty. The story reminded me of a quote by Toto, a famous Italian performer - "Dagli amici mi guardi Iddio che dai parenti mi guardo io" – meaning "you can choose your friends, but God protect me from my family"!

I was keen to learn more about the Australian Theatre Live digital theatre production of The Italians and whether the audience can expect to enjoy a similar experience to what they'd have attending live theatre.

Grant Dodwell, Creative Director of Australian Theatre Live, was happy to share his thoughts on the film production, saying, "ATL's filming technique is designed and implemented to create a 'live' feel. It is a different experience and the comment we always hear from first-time viewers is 'I felt like I was there.' ATL films one performance through with 10 cameras. This allows you to experience the energy of that one night as an audience member. The Italians is an excellent example of capturing the live theatre energy while honouring theatrical traditions."

The cast of The Italians are superb, each portraying their character to perfection. I asked Brandon Scane, who plays Joe, how different it was to perform on stage to a live audience while also "playing" to the camera for the film production? He said, "It was exciting but daunting at first as you do really feel all the cameras locked on you like laser beams! But as a performer having the audience there with you, and going on the rollercoaster ride that is the play with them, the cameras soon felt absorbed into the audience and became another audience member to play to."

I asked Brandon whether Joe enjoyed the opportunity to star in a big film production. He said, "Joe loved the attention… well, until his tiramisu wasn't appreciated! But also to tell his story and the story of his family's crazy life to more people was amazing. It was also amazing for Joe to tell an Italian story that wasn't the classic genre we see in most film productions on Italians. Being queer and a third generation Italian isn't something that's normally seen on film."

And for those of us who have seen the play live, I asked Grant Dodwell and Brandon Scane what might entice us to view the Australian Theatre Live film production.

Grant was confident that the audience would enjoy the production a second time around, saying, "ATL honours the creatives' vision for the production and the narrative remains intact. However, as you do with most productions you see a second time, you observe nuances and reactions you didn't see first time round. Primarily it is a different theatrical experience, well worth viewing."

Brandon added, "Something I feel that makes the Italians so special is that you don't have to be Italian to enjoy the show. We had many audience members from vastly different cultural backgrounds. They felt so connected to what was being said and shown and, in some way, had lived it. They knew these characters in their own lives and some felt that it was a story about their own family members playing out in front of them."

The Italians delivers plenty of belly laughs as the audience follows the antics of the characters on their crazy journey, with enough poignant moments to remind us that this is a culture for whom family is everything. A five star story told in a stellar theatre production.

The Australian Theatre Live digital theatre production of The Italians opens the live theatre door to a wider audience and this fabulous foray into the underbelly of an endearing and crazy community is a wonderful way to experience theatre in the comfort of your own home.

Australian Theatre Live is a not-for-profit organisation which makes theatre accessible to everyone. Promoting theatre companies, playwrights, performers and creative technicians and further developing Australia's live-performance industry, every dollar earned by the organisation supports artists in our theatre and film industry.

The Italians is available on demand from 26 May 2023 at this link.

You can read a review of The Italians which was performed live at The Belvoir Street Theatre here.
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