A Bench On The Road

Billed as “a story of women’s courage, of sisterhood and pride”, A Bench on the Road is a work in progress based on the true experiences of Italian immigrants, Scottish-born Italians and the native Scottish women around them. Developed by Laura Pasetti with Andrzej & Teresa Welminski, using archives from St Andrew’s and Edinburgh Universities, it explores the basic human need to belong.

A century on, A Bench on the Road resurrects their voices to show the relevance of their thoughts and fears today, dealing with the realities of living within a foreign culture, and the emotional tales of working out how the women fit in, where they truly belong and their relationship with the motherland, often with absent husbands.

History is generally written by men, focused on major events, statistical descriptions and all the economic facts. As this foray into the past shows, however, women have always played a key role in the success of economic migrants, whether it is keeping a sense of familiarity and normality at home or, more commonly, as an intrinsic part of family businesses.

A century on, A Bench on the Road resurrects their voices to show the relevance of their thoughts and fears today, dealing with the realities of living within a foreign culture, and the emotional tales of working out how the women fit in, where they truly belong and their relationship with the motherland, often with absent husbands.

Half a dozen actors convey a variety of characters in both Italian and English, melding the qualities of folk songs from both countries with particularly heart-felt emotional harmony. During the scenes depicting the Second World War, the most poignant line was: “I am not Italian enough to be your enemy and I am not Scottish enough to be your friend.”

There were some confusing moments, such as when the Scottish chorus suddenly changed to being Italian and back again; the clucking that didn’t really add to the scene and went on for too long; the possibly political march and the switch from live to recorded music at the end were somewhat stilted.

The courage was evident, as was the pride, but here’s hoping scenes of sisterhood, along with some of the audience suggestions (at the post-performance Q&A) will be included in the final production.

Despite the frequent code-switching between Italian and English, this immersive production is wholly relevant to those interested in Scottish and Italian cultural history, or anyone who has moved from their home country to make a better life. If this is what writer/director Laura Pasetti and her team can achieve in a mere ten days, here’s to the final production.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

A Bench on the Road is the result of a research commissioned in 2013 by the University of Edinburgh under the Italian-Scottish Research Cluster project (ISRC). The script, written by Laura Pasetti, is based on archival items held by the ISRC (such as personal documents) regarding and involving women.

The play tells the stories of six women from 1850 to 1950. This is the period of global Italian migration as 25 million Italians left their country between political unification and the post WWII economic boom, one of the largest human migrations to date. Many thousands made their home in Scotland, especially since the 1880s, generating one of the most successful socio-economical integrations on record. The play analyses the whole range of issues arising from this important phenomenon, from the perspective of women, focusing on their key role in migration and integration.

Three Italian Scottish and three Scottish actresses will be involved in this development. A Bench on The Road will show the result of the development period of physical research lead by two masters of physical theatre, Andrzej and Teresa Welminski, former actors of the internationally acclaimed theatre company Cricot 2 funded by Tadeusz Kantor.

A Bench on The Road is a project created by Charioteer Theatre in coproduction with Italian Cultural Institute of Edinburgh, realized with the contribution of Creative Scotland and the patronage of Piccolo Teatro di Milano.

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