Italia 'n' Caledonia
  • By Sue Bevan
  • |
  • 14th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★★

Mike Maran is at his very best here. This show about the experience of the Italians in Edinburgh, told mainly through the story of Alfonso Crolla of delicatessen and restaurant Valvona & Crolla fame, is a tale filled with joy and families, but also deep sadness and loss. Maran’s artistry is on full display here but is never, as it were, seen: only felt. Savoured. Relished. And its fruits are remembered well after you’ve left the mouth-watering scene.

If you’ve never seen Mike Maran in action, change that today.

The marvellous David Vernon opens the show. His accordion draws us in for Maran to sweep us up and transport us to 1930s Scotland and the big annual Italian picnics. “Italians from all over Scotland would close their shops and come to Alva Glen to eat and drink together, to play football, run races, and have a tug of war.” We watch a Kodak Safety Film from the period of one such party, and Maran’s narration is measured to perfection. He knows precisely, instinctively, when to speak and just how much to say. So entrancing is he that someone - forgetting he is in the middle of a theatrical performance - spontaneously chips in, “Do you still have these picnics?” Mike answers, “Yes. Yes, we do,” and gives him details. The audience is spellbound.

The show – though that seems almost too impersonal, too distancing a word for what we all experience together – takes us back a hundred years, to when the villagers of what would later become Italy left for Britain to find work and make new lives. They brought Italy with them, many of these former shepherds setting up businesses. His demonstration of ice cream manufacture and other food production informs as much as it entertains.

We hear how these well-integrated immigrant families became “enemies of the state” in the blinking of an eye when war was declared, how their relationship with the Scots changed beyond recognition. He tells of the dreadful suffering at the sinking of the Arandora Star, the prison ship deporting Italian men to Canada, leaving their wives to fend for the children and run their businesses.

Politics and émigré histories weave a tapestry worthy of the finest wool these shepherds produced, but it all feels so very touchingly familiar in the hands of this skilled teller of tales.

I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s certainly a joyous surprise to us all. Everything comes full circle here.

If you’ve never seen Mike Maran in action, change that today. If you’ve seen other shows of his, then come along to this one. If you’ve seen this one before, maybe come back in any case. It’s so rich that it merits it.

Reviews by Sue Bevan

Dixon Place

The Unwritten Law

★★★★★
The Jazz Bar

Remembering Chet

★★★★
Just the Tonic at The Mash House

Have Fun

★★
theSpace on North Bridge

Angel: Take This Body

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Shame

★★★★
Freestival St Mary's

Alasdair Lists Everything

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

By Mike Maran and Philip Contini with music by David Vernon (accordion). The joyful, tearful and hugely successful heart-warming story about Alfonso Crolla, founder of Valvona & Crolla and the Italian community in Scotland. Meraviglioso!

Most Popular See More

The Book of Mormon

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets