Elisa Cristallo is relatability personified. A multitalented artist–a writer, actress and stand-up comedian who is bringing relatable into her brand of anecdotal stand up at the Sydney Fringe Festival. She calls it “Sunday Stories,” which is reminiscent to the laid back gatherings and trading stories over a lazy Sunday over afternoon tea. With featured guest acts, Cassandra Ng and Jasmine who are as equally as talented writers and actors.
The King’s Cross Hotel is an iconic establishment where Sydney’s nightlife takes flight. With the unmissable neon Coca-Cola sign, right opposite it, the place has been part of bar and club culture for many decades. It’s known for its bustling yet cosy ambience where people catch up over a delectable food and beer and bond over good music and laugh to stand-up comedy. It was this very hotel, where Sunday Stories were held. A cosy private bar, which was filled with a wealth of eclectic antique furniture that welcomes you intimately as if you were invited into someone’s home for dinner.
When asked about the setting/vibe that Elisa wanted to create the show, she remarked; “The show is a collection of stories, some that are my personal stories and some that are from my family. Everyone has their go-to story they share when they are with their friends or family, maybe on a Sunday afternoon during a meal or a coffee (or glass of wine!). That’s the feeling I wanted to create with the show, of sharing intimate moments amongst friends but in this case, it’s with the audience.”
Elisa started producing her comedy when she realised that there was a lack of diverse voices within the stand-up comedy circuit. Her first one-woman show, “Welcome to the Family” which consisted of a fictionalised version of her personal stories and real-life stories alike. The live one-woman comedy show has strong audience numbers and raving positive reviews while touring in Newcastle, Adelaide and Sydney Fringe Festivals.
Although Elisa likes writing funny and engaging content, the heart of her comedy is to bring a refreshing multicultural perspective on comedy, especially the female and migrant perspectives to relatable problems such as arachnophobia, house hunting in Sydney and most memorable moment in her Sunday Stories act, Nonna.
Elisa transforming into Nonna was mesmerising. Her convincing embodiment of an elderly Italian woman who has serious concerns about her granddaughter getting married made audience chuckle in relatability. We all have an elder in our family who is bemused by the fact that marriage is low on the priority list. A highlight of the act when she tells the audience about the time she got married, It was like Nonna was the foolproof solution when it comes to charming men for the women in her village. When a woman in her village laid their eyes on a man, they would ask Nonna to cook for the man and the next day, the man will instantly propose the woman as he is charmed by her cooking. However, one day, the cooking ploy backfired, and in the end, Nonna got married.
When asked about the mannerisms that Elisa adopts when performing Nonna as a character, the key is being realistic in her act.
“Nonna is my favourite character to play, and I think the audience usually prefers her too! I love to tell an immigration story to Australia from the female perspective in a comedy show no less!
“With mannerisms, I don’t want to overplay the fact that she’s an older character, but I do want the audience to see the change in my movement, so they know they see another character.
“While I move around the stage as Nonna I am slower when sitting and getting up (even at 32 I’m a bit slower getting up than when I was 16!), and she peers into the audience a lot more, as if she will work around the stage lights to be able to look people in the eye.”
Cassandra Ng’s act was refreshingly relatable. She tackles age pressure with endearment through juxtaposing the idealistic mindset of her adolescent self as opposed to her late twenties self. Starting off the act as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenage girl with pigtails and a cushion tucked underneath her arms as if she was at a sleepover. Naïve and young, Cassandra’s re-enactment of her adolescent self who was reminiscing about marriage and boyfriends, which then abruptly transition to her into a much older, mid-twenties person furiously typing away at the keyboard, chasing the deadline to hand in her paper for her to graduate.
Age pressure is common in Asian culture, a social pressure put on young adults to achieve a certain a milestone in their lives in order perceived as successful in the Asian culture. Cassandra was shown to be surprised that her Singaporean friends where already married and true comedic fashion, she asked her boyfriend if they can be married because of it. A good lesson to take from her act, everyone has different goals and dreams and takes a while to reach them. Achievements and milestones are relative to your lifestyle and comparison are detrimental because everyone is going at their own pace. It’s not a race. It’s a journey.
Jasmine Langdon, a vividly descriptive raconteur, entered on the podium with a book in hand as if she is opening up a chapter in her life. The chapter was her dislocated shoulder, and the next moment, she was in pain, waiting for an ambulance to come. Due to the prolonged wait, she had finally given up and needed to hail a taxi to get to the ambulance, but by sheer consequence/ unfortunate timing, the ambulance came right after she got into the taxi. It turns out that she has bone cancer called “Multiple Myeloma”, which the cancer is developed in the plasma produced by bone marrow.
When asked Elisa why it is essential to have Cassandra and Jasmine guest star in Sunday stories, particularly sharing stories of their adversities, it boils down to empathy and relatability that can see as the common denominator for all cultures.
“I think as long as we have empathy we can relate to other people’s stories no matter how far they are from our own experiences and we learn and grow through sharing stories.”
“The reason I have guest storytellers as part of the show is that I want it to be a diverse line-up of storytellers and Cassandra and Jasmine tell stories that I can’t because it’s not my lived experience.”
“Cassandra’s first-hand story of moving to a new country and find her place in the world and Jasmine’s story of overcoming injury (and illness) with attitude and humour adds so much value to Sunday Stories. I’m very grateful to have them as part of the show.”
Sunday Stories, although just in its foetus stages has impressive potential. It has a refreshing take on traditional stand-up comedy and introducing an engaging storytelling element with a multicultural perspective will be its point of difference. Guaranteed comedic gold in the show and very enjoyable due to the intimate setting of the show.
What is next for Elisa? Well, she is taking to Sunday Stories to Adelaide, and a passion project is brewing in the midst.
“I’m taking Sunday Stories down to Adelaide Fringe Festival in February 2019, I love Adelaide Fringe, and I’m excited to share this show with them.
“I am also working on the script for Welcome to the Family: the web series which will go into production in early 2019 with the funding support from Blacktown Council.”