- WRITTEN by Margaret Rose
- DRAMATURG: Lara Parmiani
- CAST: Roberto Carretta, Susannah Costner, Leslie Csuth, Lisa Genovese, Elena Mazzon, Francesca Nider, Lara Parmiani
- DIRECTOR: Tanya Hossick and Becka McFadden
Neither here nor there, Legalaliens’s first production was inspired by a piece by Emanuela Rossini and Margaret Rose written in the early 2000s. Emanuela is from Trentino and her grand mother was one of the migrants who in the 1930s had left the mountains of Northern Italy to move to Britain. Trentino was particularly poor at the time and some villages saw up to 80% of their female population flee to Britain, America or Germany. Margaret and Emanuela set off to find some of these women – the ones who were still alive- and to interview them together with their daughters and grand daughters. The result was a verbatim piece called “Mary London” and mixed Italian and English monologues. It was eventually produced as a radio drama by RAI in 2006 with the title “Mary e le altre”.
We loved it. We were women, we were migrants, we lived in London. We were also shocked by one of the events mentioned by the women in the piece: the very little known tragedy of the Arandora Star, a British ship heading to Canada with a load of hundreds of Italian and German prisoners, that sank in the Atlantic after being hit by a German torpedo. The ship didn’t have enough lifeboats and f 858 of the 1,052 people aboard died.
We therefore asked Margaret Rose to help us develop the piece into a full play, Neither here nor there, which we presented at the Soho Theatre Studio and at the Italian Cultural Institute in 2009.
SYNOPSIS: 1936, Giustino, Italy. Laura is forced marry by proxy Giacomo (a second generation Italian and family friend living in London) and leave her mother and her cousin Adele to move to the East End of London, where her in laws own a fish and chips shop. Laura feels lonely and confused in England. She doesn’t speak the language, Giacomo’s nonna makes her work like a slave, her sister in law Mary (a very political and independent woman) treats like an idiot and Giacomo doesn’t seem interested in sharing their marital bed. Her only dream is returning to Italy, to her house and village, which with time acquire a sort of “mythical aura”, a “promised land” where everything is perfect and beautiful. Feeling himself ostracised by a country that doesn’t treat him as “one of its own” Giacomo is increasingly attracted by Fascism and refuses to ask for a British passport, despite Mary’s warning that a war might be near. When finally WW2 is declared, and Italy allies itself with Hitler, all Italians are declared “Enemy aliens”. Giacomo gets arrested, the shop gets looted, the women insulted. When news breaks that Giacomo is one of the victims of the Arandora Star, Laura, Mary and nonna are left to fend for themselves in a country that doesn’t want them. They learn to run a business, to drive a van, to get provisions, even to lure customers back to the cafe by changing their names from Collini to Collins… Is pretending to be British the right thing to do? Is there an alternative when survival is all that matters? And how about cousin Adele, left alone in their little Italian village occupied by the Germans? Is she really the only one who can claim ownership of the family house and land once the war is over and the region is turned into a tourist destination? Who belongs where?
THE SHOW: Our production uses projections of photos from the era, songs and music to recreate the atmosphere of the times. It’s a very choral piece, aimed at showing the universality of the migrant experience, the issue of feeling “other”, of where can we belong after we’ve left our home for so many years. As an ensemble of “foreign” artists, these questions touch us deeply.
The show also has a long, surreal, visually striking part, dedicated to Giacomo sinking on the Arandora Star, inspired by the testimonies of the survivors. The fascists and antifascists bundled together in the hold, the sudden impact of the German missile, the water coming in, the screams.