An Au Pair in America tells the all-too-common tale of a mistreated au pair in a foreign country; powerless and browbeaten by spoilt child and parent alike.
Carla Anita Mattiazzo is the all-Australian girl, off on a wild adventure, equipped only with previous experience in childcare and hazardously high expectations of the family she’s about to work for – expectations that will not be met. Instead, she finds an overly-attentive, loathsome father, a lazy pyjama-wearing housewife, and four horrendously behaved children who begin (and end) her career as an au pair. Cue disaster, riding on a wave of frozen meals and no fresh fruit.
The show is half girl’s chat and half angry rant – a bit more of one and less of the other, An Au Pair in America would have been driven to the teen-movie side of irritating but Mattiazzo somehow finds a balance between the two. She has such vivacious charm on the stage, winning the audience with her snarky humour and wonderfully expressive face, that the odd stilted moment is easily overlooked.
As someone with little musical knowledge I cannot comment on her strength as a singer, but I can assert that her performance was engaging, lively and, at times, very funny. She won plenty of delighted laughs from the audience.
Although it masqueraded as a comedy, there were some deeper, more concerning notes that gave me pause. Could this really be a depiction of a real set of parents? While Mattiazzo was tongue-in-cheek about positive reinforcement strategies and star-charts, she also put forward a number of serious points about parenthood and childcare; looking back on her experience of being an au pair, she can only reflect that children are really only bad because of bad parenting.
An Au Pair in America weaves together spoken word and songs, a combination that occasionally jarred in both transition and content. Although many of the song choices were perfect – for example using Phantom of the Opera’s Prima Donna to finish the description of the selfish mother – others were unfortunately not so closely connected to the plot. Indeed, the shorter snippets of songs were more effective in sewing the show together, whereas the longer pieces detracted from the flow of performance and story line. While each rendition was vocally enjoyable, I hungered after that perfect unity that the show strived towards but fell just short of achieving.
Although An Au Pair in America does lack polish in places, it is a fun and affordable show that provides a fulfilling night out, aided by the excellent atmosphere in The Promethean.
Reviewed by Emily Francine Palmer
Venue: The Promethean, 116 Grote Street Adelaide
Season: 24 & 26 June 2014
Duration: 1 hour with 20 minute interval
Tickets: $15.00 – $26.00
Bookings: Book through the Cabaret Fringe Festival online or tickets at the door if not sold out.