City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

A Bench on the Road, Assembly Roxy, Review


By Irene Brown - Posted on 16 October 2016

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A Bench on the Road 2 - photo credit Roberto Ricciuti 2.jpg
Show Details
Venue: 
Assembly Roxy
Company: 
Charioteer Theatre and Piccolo Teatro di Milano – Teatro d’Europa
Production: 
Laura Pasetti (Writer and Director), Jen McGregor (Assistant Director), Manuel Frenda(Lighting Design), Simona Paci (Costumes) and Natalie Toyne (Vocal Coach), Andrzej and Teresa Welmiṅski (Movement)
Performers: 
Anna Carfora, Helen Cuinn, Vanda De Luca, Sian Mannifield, Nicoletta Maragno, Pamela Reid, Caroline Anderson Hussey (accordionist)
Running time: 
70mins

Immigration is a topic that’s high on political agendas across the world. At some point in all our backgrounds, either recently or in the more distant past, we are all, as mightier voices than mine have said, immigrants.

In this new production of her play A Bench on the Road, Italian born and Scottish based writer, Laura Pasetti has focussed on stories of Italian immigration to Scotland over a period of 100 years till 1950 told uniquely through the voices of women. The work started as a piece of commissioned research by the University of Edinburgh and is based on archive material collected over 30 years and held by the Italian-Scottish Research Cluster.

These recorded words are brought to life through the bilingual voices of the six female actors who, though dressed to show the presence of both Scots and Italian women, all take on a whole spectrum of characters from each nationality so retaining the simple universal black worn at the play’s work-in-progress may have been more effective in this regard. As no voice is clearly attributed to a single actor, at times it’s difficult to keep focus through the more loud and raucous scenes that are part of the tableau that at first slowly then explosively fires to life.

That said, the committed cast provide bravura performances and fine female harmony to the accordion sounds from Caroline Anderson Hussey who presses the keys to produce an array of sounds from Cutleresque drones to lively Scottish and Italian dance tunes in this passionate blend of music, song and narration.

The shared narrative covers the broad historic period in question looking squarely in the face Scots Italian involvement in Mussolini’s creed and ensuing arrests then the tragedy of the sinking of ship SS Arandora Star containing prisoners of war on board on their way to Canada with its massive loss of life, all done with immense theatricality. The great leveller that is motherhood gives a connection to these women from cultures with the diverse beliefs of Presbyterianism and Catholicism as they meet on a symbolic bench on a road and try to come to terms with their dichotomy.

This is a brave revelation of important stories that deserve to be heard, especially in the times we live now. The partisan crowd fairly whooped and cheered at hearing their own story being told, and who can blame them? Yet the generic issues of assimilation and dual identity are recognisable. The significance of one of the final lines where a woman states her wish to be re born as a tree – in other words, to be utterly rooted – is laden with all too familiar human longing.

Sat 15 October, 7.30pm tour ended
A pop up Exhibition, We Are All Immigrants, on the voices of Italian women who moved to Scotland over the last 20 years runs from Sunday 16 October - Sunday 23 October at St Margaret’s House, London Road 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Read Irene Brown's 2015 review of Charioteer Theatre's production of A Bench on the Road.

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