Yesterday I went to the theatre, (Piccolo Teatro di Milano) for an interesting theatrical performance. The play, A Bench on The Road is the result of a research commissioned by the University of Edinburgh, under the Italian-Scottish Research Cluster project, and the patronage of Piccolo Teatro di Milano
On the stage there are six women, three Scottish and three Italian, plus an accordionist and few objects.
Through powerful the images, movement, traditional songs and a beautiful language, half Italian and half English/Scots we learn the stories of Italian immigrants in Scotland from their arrival in the 1850’s to the 1950’s and the aftermath of the Second World War, told from the point of view of women in dialogues that go from acceptance and collaboration to confrontation and rejection,
The play is constructed through a sequence of historical frames, which mark the passing of time and represent some particular events, such as the arrival, the opening of fish and chips and ice cream shops, the Great War, the rise of Fascism, the Second World War, ‘Enemy Aliens’, the Arandora Star sinking and others.
We go through the prejudice Italian women find, the security they desire, the reality of finding their families divided during World War Two and then regained joy and hope.
The topics brought on stage by this mixture of prose, poetry and song are multi-faceted immigration, integration, sense of belonging, etc. All of them are extremely up-to-date, and common to all migration stories: how to assimilate in an adopted country while trying to preserve aspects and traditions of another culture.