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y separately published work icon Hotel Sorrento single work   drama   - Two acts
Issue Details: First known date: 1990... 1990 Hotel Sorrento
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Hotel Sorrento is a vivid, moving and funny play which explores the concept of loyalty both to family and to country. Three sisters come together after ten years: Hilary who lives in Sorrento with her father and her sixteen-year-old son; Pippa visiting from New York where she works in advertising; and Meg, who returns home from England with her English husband after her new novel Melancholy is shortlisted for the Booker prize. Unspoken aspects of their shared past, jolted by the autobiographical flavour of Meg's book, haunt their reunion.

Coincidentally, Marge, a teacher, with a holiday house in Sorrento, reads the novel and finds it captures an Australia she knows. Her friend, Dick, however, is worried by Meg's expatriate status. This interest draws them into the family where the issues of culture, patriotism, and using the past are battled out.

Source: Publisher's blurb (back cover).




form y separately published work icon Hotel Sorrento Sorrento Beach Richard Franklin , Peter Fitzpatrick , ( dir. Richard Franklin ) 1995 Australia : Bayside Pictures , 1995 Z221647 1995 single work film/TV

Three sisters (Meg, Pippa, and Hillary) reunite at the family home in the Australian seaside town of Sorrento, Victoria, after their father disappears. Meg, who has lived in England for ten years, has just written a critically acclaimed novel. The book causes a stir in Sorrento and in her family when people begin to suspect that it is not, as she claims, entirely fictional.

Reading Australia

Reading Australia

This work has Reading Australia teaching resources.

Unit Suitable For

AC: Senior Secondary (Literature Unit 2)


art, Australian identity, family, gender, identity, literature, loyalty, place

General Capabilities

Critical and creative thinking, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Personal and social


  • Dedication: For Kathy and Suzie Skelton
  • Author's note: Hotel Sorrento began life as an idea about a group of Australian tourists travelling through Europe on a bus. In the name of research I dutifully booked myself on a coach tour of Europe and within fifteen minutes of leaving Victoria Station, London, I realised that of all the bright ideas I'd ever had, this was the worst.

    I escaped shortly afterwards in Venice and returned to London to reconsider my options. It was 1985 and London was buzzing with talk about the Booker prize nominations. Peter Carey was on the shortlist for his novel Illywhacker. In an interview in the Times, Carey said that he had lived in London for two years from 1968 and loved it like any other visitor. 'But one day I looked at the man in my local service station and suddenly realised that if I lived here ten years I wouldn't know that man any better. I decided to go home...What I missed was that ability to recognise instantly what people are, what they are thinking and feeling which comes effortlessly with your own kind.' This was the starting point of my play. (1990): (i).

Production Details

  • First produced by the Playbox Theatre Co., Merlyn Theatre, CUB Malthouse, Melbourne, 27 July 1990.

    Director: Aubrey Mellor.

    Cast: Elspeth Ballantyne, Julia Blake, Robin Cuming, Peter Curtin, Caroline Gillmer, David Latham, Tamblyn Lord, and Genevieve Picot.

    Production repeated at the Merlyn Theatre in August 1998, with new cast.

    Director: David Latham.

    Cast: Janet Andrewartha, Celia de Burgh, John Flaus, Jan Friedl, Christine Harris, Samuel Johnson, Brian Lipson, and Ken Radley.

    Also produced in Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Townsville, Tokyo, Vancouver, Germany and Paris.

    Produced at Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo, 20 June 2018.

    Produced at Gardens Theatre (QUT, Gardens Point), 18 and 19 September 2018.

    Director: Denny Lawrence.

    Cast including Kim Denman, Dennis Coard, and Dion Mills.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

The play has also been translated into Japanese.
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Melbourne, Victoria,: Currency Press ; Playbox Theatre , 1990 .
      image of person or book cover 7481050259478929540.png
      This image has been sourced from Reading Australia
      Extent: 90p.
      Description: port.
      ISBN: 0868192724
      Series: Current Theatre Series Currency Press (publisher), 1983- series - publisher 'Current Theatre Series consists of Australian plays published with the program inserted and sold during theatre seasons. The aim of the series is to promote and encourage new dramatic writing and make it accessible to theatregoers and the public. The text is presented at the first day of rehearsal and does not contain changes which the author may choose to make after the play has commenced its present season - these will be incorporated into any new edition published by Currency.' Currency Press.
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Currency Press , 1992 .
      image of person or book cover 8582952488333235993.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 87, [1]p.p.
      Edition info: Revised edition
      Description: illus.
      Reprinted: 1997
      • Currency plays.
      • 'A Sweet Pensive Sadness' by Hannie Rayson, Collingwood, October 1992.(vi-viii). 'With Hotel Sorrento I wanted to write a play of ideas; something which would send an audience out into the night with all sorts of things to talk about over coffee. I also wanted to create a 'sweet pensive sadness' to pervade the experience, as there is something delectable about melancholy which seems to alter the way we see things....'
      • 'The Quest for Certainty' by Aubrey Mellor(ix-xiv).'This theme of ownership is very important in the play - Rayson clearly uses the family as a metaphor for Australia - just as the family members must face up to their past and own what has happened to them before any reconciliation is possible, so must we as a nation.' (xii).
      ISBN: 0868193372
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Contemporary Australian Plays Russell Vandenbroucke , London : Methuen , 2001 Z869352 2001 anthology drama musical theatre (taught in 1 units) London : Methuen , 2001
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Currency Press , 2002 .
      image of person or book cover 8158793316721279367.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: xiv, 93p.
      Edition info: Rev. ed.
      Description: illus.
      ISBN: 0868196819 (pbk.), 9780868196817 (pbk.)
Language: French

Other Formats

  • Braille.
  • Sound recording.

Works about this Work

form y separately published work icon Interviews with 10 Australian Authors Tom Tilley (interviewer), Melbourne : ABC Splash , 2018 16600399 2018 website interview film/TV

'Meet ten of Australia's literary greats. Tom Tilley speaks with writers such as David Malouf, Nadia Wheatley and Michael Gow about their works, their inspirations and their lives as writers.'

Source: Introduction.

Review : Hotel Sorrento 2015 single work
— Appears in: Good Reading , April 2015;

— Review of Hotel Sorrento Hannie Rayson , 1990 single work drama
Hotel Sorrento Rewatched – Highfalutin Soap Opera Based on the Play Luke Buckmaster , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 17 October 2014;

— Review of Hotel Sorrento Hannie Rayson , 1990 single work drama
[Essay 1] : Hotel Sorrento Cate Kennedy , 2013 single work essay
— Appears in: Reading Australia 2013-;

'Hannie Rayson’s well-loved Hotel Sorrento, which premiered onstage in 1991 and was made into a feature film in 1995, explored some immediately identifiable terrain for many audiences when it first appeared. It tapped the theme of Australian ‘cultural cringe’, the contested ownership of cultural and personal stories and conflict over entitlement and betrayal. These concerns were framed in the rocky relationships between three Australian sisters, all of who, at the play’s opening, have made widely different paths for themselves in the world.' (Introduction)

[Essay 2] : Hotel Sorrento Kate Mulvany , 2013 single work essay
— Appears in: Reading Australia 2013-;

'I’m Meg, I think…

'That is…

'I’m a writer from a small Australian country town who took off as far away as possible – to as many places as possible – to live and work. And one of my pieces just happened to be a (semi) ‘autobiographical’ piece. And the characters just happened to be based on my family members – their names changed. And I had also just happened to contend with a prodding press on how my family responded, and I found myself sitting at dinner tables as those very family members discussed ‘what was true and what wasn’t’. I, like Meg, also got asked to partake in countless forums on ‘women in autobiography’ and deal with people assuming, as a female writer, that my play (legitimate, in my mind) was some form of extended ‘diary entry’, and would I ‘ever consider writing something fictional?’' (Introduction)

First Impressions : The Critical Archives John Larkin , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 3 May 2003; (p. 3)

— Review of Hotel Sorrento Hannie Rayson , 1990 single work drama
Family Reunion Rekindles the Past Leonard Radic , 1990 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 31 July 1990; (p. 14)

— Review of Hotel Sorrento Hannie Rayson , 1990 single work drama
Chekhovian Echoes of Power and Poignancy Peter Craven , 1990 single work review
— Appears in: The Australian , 31 July 1990; (p. 12)

— Review of Hotel Sorrento Hannie Rayson , 1990 single work drama
A Pain in the Art Alison Croggon , 1990 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 14 August vol. 112 no. 5731 1990; (p. 148) Creme de la Phlegm : Unforgettable Australian Reviews 2006; (p. 225-227)

— Review of Hotel Sorrento Hannie Rayson , 1990 single work drama
Rooms with a View Barry Oakley , 1990 single work review
— Appears in: The Independent Monthly , September vol. 2 no. 3 1990; (p. 41)

— Review of Hotel Sorrento Hannie Rayson , 1990 single work drama
Redistribution of Power : Hannie Rayson Rachel Fensham , Denise Varney , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Dolls' Revolution : Australian Theatre and Cultural Imagination 2005; (p. 285-328) The AustLit Anthology of Criticism 2010; (p. 49)
'...discusses Rayson's participation in and contributuion to ... the turning of the wheel that would make women the key players on the Australian stage.' (p.285)
y separately published work icon Adaptations : A Guide to Adapting Literature to Film Denise Faithfull , Brian Hannant , Strawberry Hills : Currency Press , 2007 Z1361797 2007 single work criticism Adaptations discusses approaches to adaptations of various forms of literature using a range of Australian texts and films as examples.
Love and Mourning in Australia Chiti Das , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: Indian Journal of World Literature and Culture , July-December vol. 2 no. 2006; (p. 31-40)
Director Sets a High Bar Fiona Gruber , 2010 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 24 August 2010 2010; (p. 16)
Adam Spreadbury-Maher, an artistic director from Canberra, is currently (2010), leading a revival of London's pub theatre scene.
The French Selection Matthew Gledhill , 1995 single work column
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 27 June vol. 116 no. 5976 1995; (p. 84)
Last amended 17 Jun 2020 10:53:29
  • Sorrento, Mornington Peninsula (Port Phillip Bay), Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, Victoria,
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