Working on a Special Day

Based on Ettore Scola’s 1977 film Una Giornata Particolare, Working on a Special Day succinctly adapts a historical story of repressed feeling for the stage. Ana Graham and Antonio Vega, armed with sticks of chalk to construct their set, compellingly transport their audience into the hearts of the people of Mussolini’s Italy.

The script has been beautifully translated but Vega and Graham still succeed in giving the piece an authentic Italian feel. Together they portray the lives existing out of public view on the day of Hitler’s first visit to Fascist Italy in 1938. Antonietta (Graham), a downtrodden housewife, owns an unruly parrot which escapes. It flies out of the window and across the road, giving her cause to knock on the door of Gabriel (Vega), the mysterious man across the street. As the pair get to know each other, Gabriel shows her a new way of viewing Mussolini’s Italy and the position of women.

The cinematic elements of Una Giornata Particolare gracefully morph onto the stage while Graham and Vega give powerful performances. Facets of the piece do at times, however, feel a little dry. Sometimes sequences of dialogue continue for too long without saying very much, and this aspect of the play puts a particularly heavy emphasis on the piece’s sentimentality and detracts from the audience’s awareness of its existence in a wider political context.

It is, nevertheless, an engaging piece of theatre. Notably their ingenious use of stage space gives the show a distinguished piquancy. Antonietta and Gabriel draw pieces of their world onto the walls as they appear: naturalism is adroitly given a self-conscious face which has an irresistible appeal.

Ultimately, Working on a Special day is well-directed, cleverly produced and is brought a distinct flair through Graham and Vega. It is not startlingly exceptional as a whole, but it is expressive and eloquent, and a moving dramatic exposition.

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Performances

The Blurb

1938. Hitler visits Mussolini’s Italy. Two actors create a bittersweet human drama that unfolds against the political landscape of rising fascism. ‘Fast pace, crack timing, whimsical inventiveness’ (New York Times). **** (Time Out, New York, Critics Pick).

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