Saturday, April 30, 2022



Written by Hannie Rayson

Directed by Alexandra Pelvin

Canberra REP to May 14


Reviewed by Len Power 29 April 2022


Now considered an Australian classic, Hannie Rayson’s ‘Hotel Sorrento’ was first performed in Melbourne in 1990.  It is studied in schools and universities and was filmed in 1995.

The play focuses on three sisters who grew up in the quiet seaside resort of Sorrento, Victoria.  Hilary has stayed home to care for their elderly father and her son while Pippa has been living in New York and Meg has moved to London.  A new book written by Meg has been short-listed for the Booker Prize.  The autobiographical elements of the story create friction amongst the sisters when they are reunited in Sorrento, setting off wider issues of loyalty, rivalry, national identity and culture.

Rayson’s play presents a challenge for both director and production designer with its cinematic structure of numerous small scenes played in several locations.  In addition, the first half of the play takes its time slowly building on character and relationships.  A previous touring production was unable to solve these aspects satisfactorily.

This new Canberra REP production has overcome the play’s problems with a well-designed and functional set by Michael Sparks and fine in-depth direction of a highly capable cast by Alexandra Pelvin.

Victoria Tyrrell Dixon gives a beautiful performance as the sister, Hilary, a quietly capable woman whose family is her priority.  As Pippa, the sister recently returned from New York, Jess Waterhouse gives a sharply etched performance of a woman of strength and drive.  The third sister and author, Meg, is well-played by Rachel Howard, clearly showing the character’s doubts and frustrations in her relationship with her sisters and her British husband as well as unresolved issues from her past.  All three performers are subtly convincing as sisters.

The rest of the cast, Elaine Noon, Ryan Erlandsen, Saban Lloyd Berrell, Peter Holland and Nick Dyball all give truthful, in-depth performances of recognizable characters.

Michael Sparks’ set design makes excellent use of the wide and deep Canberra REP stage, solving the problem of the cinematic structure of the play’s multiple short scenes.  The separate acting areas are colourfully evocative of their locations and the excellent lighting and sound designs add considerably to the atmosphere.  The director has ensured the transitions between scenes are smooth and not distracting.

It was great to see a fine production of a play I had not thought highly of in the past.  I could now see why the play is considered an Australian classic.  This well-staged production succeeds in all aspects, resulting in an enjoyable and thought-provoking night in the theatre.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at