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).
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.
Unit Suitable For
AC: Senior Secondary (Literature Unit 2)
art, Australian identity, family, gender, identity, literature, loyalty, place
Critical and creative thinking, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Personal and social
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).
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.
'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)
'I’m Meg, I think…
'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)