He has since drawn on that experience to pen ‘La Nonna’, a homage to his Sicilian-born grandmother and her own life journey as a post-war migrant.
Showing at La Mama Theatre from January 31 to February 4 as part of the Midsumma Festival, ‘La Nonna’ is described as a “cabaret-cum-Italian restaurant extravaganza”, in which La Nonna - played by Mr Dariol himself - grapples with tradition in a fast changing world and reflects on a life divided between being neither Italian nor Australian.
Mr Dariol’s character is inspired by his real-life nonna, who has played an integral part in helping him unearth his Italian background.
“I had a lot of questions about where my family came from and where I came from,” he said.
“I started to get this sense that there was a big part of me that I hadn’t been aware of and that I was uncovering by listening to my nonna.”
What Mr Dariol discovered was a fascinating family history.
His grandparents met in Italy and moved to Australia after World War II.
Hailing from the small Apulian town of Ceglie Messapica, his nonno migrated to Australia in 1956, followed by his wife a year later.
A few years after the couple settled in Melbourne, Mr Dariol’s nonno returned to Italy and they became estranged.
Listening to his nonna, Mr Dariol began to learn more about the grandfather he had never met.
His father travelled to Italy several years ago in an attempt to track down his own father, but sadly learnt that he’d passed away.
But Mr Dariol’s father did manage to meet two sisters-in-law who were eager to form a relationship with their newly discovered family members.
Last year, Mr Dariol visited Ceglie Messapica and met his long-lost relatives, exploring the town where his nonno grew up.
Mr Dariol’s discovery of his heritage also echoed another phase of his life in which he was coming to understand his sexuality.
“I was really uncertain and didn’t know how to define myself; in going on a journey and trying to find some answers about who I am and where I come from, I started to feel stronger in myself,” he explained.
“This show is a coming together of those two parts of my identity; it’s about becoming comfortable with and aware of my sexuality and becoming comfortable with my Italian heritage.”
Two stories simultaneously unfold in ‘La Nonna’: that of Mr Dariol’s nonna, whose character shares stories about her life, family, culture and food (she even cooks during the performance and feeds her audience), overlapping with Mr Dariol’s own story about understanding his “queerness” and “Italianness”.
“A lot of my Italianness has been passed down to me through my nonna and that shines through in the show and fits in with my queerness,” Mr Dariol explained.
“For a long time I thought I had to be a typical Italian ‘wog guy’, but the more I spoke to my nonna the more I realised that maybe that doesn’t work as well for me.”
Mr Dariol hopes the show prompts his audience to speak to their own grandparents or elders, asking questions and taking the time to listen to their responses and stories.
“I didn’t just learn about my nonna, I also learnt about myself,” he said.
“I hope people are encouraged to do the same.”
Due to popular demand, an extra performance of ‘La Nonna’ will show at La Mamma Theatre on Saturday, February 3 at 5:00 pm. Follow the link for tickets and further information.