Friday, 26 April 2019

REVIEW: Diary Of An Expat - Tristan Bates Theatre. London.


“Diary Of An Expat” looks at the road to becoming a British citizen, embracing a new nationality whilst trying to stay true to your roots. It is about the knocks your identity takes when you feel like you belong neither to your new country, nor your original country. It is a topic that is very relevant in today’s political world and something I was very much looking forward to seeing.

The play was written by Cecilia Gragnani, as well as Jvan Sica and Loredana de Michelis. Cecilia is also the main character as this autobiographical journey starts nine years ago when she decided to follow her dreams, moving to London from Milan to join a drama school and become an actress.

Cecilia is, as you might expect, full of enthusiasm when she arrives in London but at the same time confused by the Victorian housing all neatly set out in rows – something she definitely doesn’t find in Italy. She also develops a somewhat healthy (or unhealthy perhaps) addiction to sausage rolls! Her enthusiasm is tested though given the number of people in London unable to pronounce her name correctly – for the avoidance of doubt the audience were clearly informed that this was “gra-GNa-ne”.

Gragnani has without doubt struck a real balance between highlighting the issues faced with this scenario and the ability to make people laugh. There are many situations that allow her natural comic instincts to come out as she performs a very tongue-in-check swipe at both the inhabitants of London and the political system in the UK. This is expressed in many ways but the stand-out is the use of her readings from the book “Life In The United Kingdom” which is genuinely something given to candidates for the ultimate test – a book that you feel could easily have been written purely for comedy purpose.

Where I think Gragnani stands out from other similar attempts to tell this type of story is that she sticks to her own personal experiences, she isn’t tempted to jump into stereotypes and generalisations – everything is done in her own words. Her own performance is most definitely the stand out though, she has perfect comedy timing without turning the show into a stand-up performance – we the audience were never left thinking her anecdotes were exaggerated or fabricated, they all stood the reality test which made things all the more enjoyable.

“Diary Of An Expat” is most definitely relevant, it will appeal to the widest spectrum of political views and has just about the right amount of satire to keep a mainstream audience interested. I can definitely see this production moving onwards and upwards to bigger venues and who knows, perhaps even a sitcom – it is a piece of work that I feel would translate very well to the small screen.

Reviewer - John Fish
on - 24/4/19

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