REVIEW: Emilio Ela Rose in CIAO!

Bravo!

By Rachel Holkner

This engaging dance theatre show was written by and stars Emilio Ela Rose and is based on his own family’s experience as assisted immigrants moving from war-torn Italy to Melbourne, Australia.

Ciao

Told throughout in both English and Italian, the show moves between affecting and absolutely hilarious. Always keeping the audience hooked, we follow Emilio’s father from his first steps off the boat to making friends, missing home, experiencing new things and trying to make sense of all these cuckoos.

Ela Rose’s strength lies in his ability to relate to the audience, getting them immersed in the story, playing off odd comments and playing up to their interests (“Calabrese! Sausage!”). I would have liked to see even more of this, even perhaps at the expense of one of the dance routines.

The staging utilised the framing device of a movie theatre to showcase found footage and vintage photographs. The images were effectively used to introduce the setting and punctuate throughout the show. However the ‘cinema’ experience was jarring. I can’t help thinking arranging it as a home movie would have suited the story better.

A variety of music was used, mostly traditional Italian pieces, many of which were beautifully sung by Marina Spitteri. They were touching and really emphasised the emotional aspects of the story. The whole ensemble worked really well together, the men in particular revelling in their various roles. I would however have liked the women to have been more proactive in driving the story as they are largely used as props, foils and backdrop.

The dancers were on the whole fine, but I found their expression flat at times where they needed to be more attuned to the storytelling they were responsible for. The choreography was not a particular strength for the most part, and some dances seemed superfluous as they rehashed themes already explored through previous numbers. However it really picked up in the second act, with a fabulous fight/dance scene in a bar and some hysterical descriptions of Australian versus Italian foods.

Ciao! was absolutely written for and performed to the largely Italian audience. I loved that there were jokes that flew over my head, but I never felt excluded from the experience. That is a very fine balance and it was masterfully done.

Presented by EPR productions at the Karralyka Theatre on September 6, Ciao! will next be performed at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre on October 11. Time and tickets TBA. http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=101434

Look out for more Ciao! launching in 2015.

[Editor’s note:The reviewer took her ten-year old daughter Abbey with her, who loved the performance and has offered her own review – “It was very funny and I liked how they included the audience. I also liked the dance at the end which was extremely fun. He got everybody to stand up and do a nonsense dance about making sauce, pasta and sausages.”]

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