MiNDFOOD reviews: Thirty years later, ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ is finding a fresh, new audience on stage

By Gill Canning

Credit: Daniel Boud
Credit: Daniel Boud

In 1992, a young woman, Melina Marchetta, wrote a novel loosely based on her and her sisters’ experiences as the teenage daughters of Italian immigrants in Sydney. The book, Looking for Alibrandi, became a best-seller, was released as a movie starring Pia Miranda in 2000, and became a staple of high school reading lists in the decades since.

On stage now at the Belvoir Theatre in Sydney is a stage adaptation of the book by Vidya Rajan that breathes new life into the Australian classic and which received an enthusiastic reception from its opening night audience.

Actress Chanella Macri colourfully inhabits the character of Josie Alibrandi, the bright, opinionated 17-year-old daughter of young single mother, Christina and granddaughter to her ultra-traditional ‘Nonna’. The ebbing and flowing relationships between these three women are at the heart of the play, along with Josie’s relationships with her best friend Sera, the two boys she loves and her (until recently) absent father, Michael.

Credit: Daniel Boud

Amongst this accomplished cast there are no weaknesses. However, the amazingly talented Lucia Mastrontone – who effortlessly flips throughout between playing old-before-her-time Christina and the hilariously outré Sera – was for me simultaneously the play’s most moving portrayal and on-point scene stealer, getting many of the laughs.

A single set – consisting of numerous crates of tomatoes ready to be transformed by the three women into tomato passata, a kitchen table and various kitchen accoutrements – encapsulates the at-home world of the Alibrandis but somehow is not jarring when it serves for every scene. 

There is quite a lot of Italian spoken on stage amongst the three women – only some of which is translated. As an Italian speaker, I enjoyed it but non-speakers may find it slightly frustrating when the meaning is not evident.

The themes of identity, secrecy and unrequited love swirl constantly about the play, strengthened by the fact they concern each of the three Alibrandi women. The friend I went with – who grew up the daughter of Italian immigrants in South Australia – found so much to identify with, she was often reaching for the tissues. 

Looking for Alibrandi is a definite crowd-pleaser.

Looking For Alibrandi

1 October – 6 November 2022 

belvoir.com.au

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

BECOME A MiNDFOOD SUBSCRIBER TODAY

Let us keep you up to date with our weekly MiNDFOOD e-newsletters which include the weekly menu plan, health and news updates or tempt your taste buds with the MiNDFOOD Daily Recipe.