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REVIEW: Diary of an Expat at Newcastle Alphabetti

Paper Smokers/Fumatori di Carta presents:
Diary of an Expat
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Until Friday 5th April 2019

Performed by Cecilia Gragnani
Directed by Katharina Reinthaller
Written by Cecilia Gragnani, Jvan Sica and Loredana de Michelis

As Great Britain lurches from one Brexit headline to another, Diary of an Expat describes the journey of an Italian who settled here nine years ago and found herself integrating with our funny ways.

We found ourselves at a loose end on a Wednesday night an decided to pay Alphabetti a visit. Even though the website suggested there were no tickets available, a quick call confirmed it was that they’d taken down the online reservations a couple of hours before the show started. We are glad we did make the effort as Diary of an Ex-pat is exactly the type of fringe show that this intimate venue excels at.

Cecilia is has enjoyed learning English back in her native Italy and so it seemed natural that she would book a one way ticket to London and to try to establish herself here. The Alphabetti audience are quickly introduce to a guide book to British life. Quickly you’re left wondering if the British citizenship test really does include the area of Loch Lomond or questions about soap operas. I’d be doomed as I don’t know have big the Lochs are and I don’t watch those programmes.
Some of the habits of life in London are funny when you have then reflected back on us. Where else in the world can you enjoy a sausage roll? Or learn to walk with a purpose but avoid eye contact? Though as a Northerner, I too struggle with that last one in the capital.

Cecilia is lovely. Though this is explained as a double-edged sword in the show – I mean the same as dictionary meaning rather than the sarcastic form of the phrase. Her demeanour is engaging with the audience – she is able to ask questions of the audience without the audience feeling anxious.

The show hits an interesting place. Not preachy, it doesn’t ask for sympathy nor does it try to lecture. It is a pragmatic, matter-of-fact statement of how it is for the Italian earning a living and enjoying life with her English partner. I did find myself drawing conclusions about events since 2016.

Did I mention the sausage roll badge that was given to the audience? We love it!

The show is “pay what you feel”. At the end you have the option to pay however much you feel you can for an hour’s entertainment. In addition to the brown cash envelopes, they now have a card reader too for your anonymous donation for the show. We took advantage of the card reader on this occasion. This scheme enables the less well off to access the arts – we salute this concept.

Diary of an Ex-pat is an interesting expose of members of our community. A lovely bit of theatre.

Review by Stephen Oliver

On The Web:

Cast & Creatives:
Performed by Cecilia Gragnani and Steve Wickenden (voice over)
Directed by Katharina Reinthaller 
Written by Cecilia Gragnani, Jvan Sica and Loredana de Michelis
Set design by Rasa Selemonavičiūtė     
Sound design by Neil McKeown

Movement director Mala Cherga Theatre

Running Time: 60 mins
Suitable for ages 14+
Tickets are ‘Pay What You Feel’

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