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An Italian in England

Published: 23 March 2019

The Diary of an Expat, a one-woman show about being an Italian living in England, comes to Alphabetti next month.

Faced with the possibility of having to leave her home of ten years, Cecilia Gragnani is sharing her personal experience and testimonials of others to ask: what does it feel like to be an expat?

A comic story of the encounter between a modern migrant and London—a contemporary El Dorado craved by generations of young Europeans—Diary of an Expat looks at the road to becoming a British citizen, embracing a new nationality whilst staying true to your roots and the knocks your identity takes when no country claims you as their own. From amusing miscommunications to bewildering legal technicalities, Gragnani delves into the day-to-day of living in a country that can’t pronounce your surname.

She found that being an expat is lonely and, with this show, she hoped to make expats like her feel less lonely. But now she may have to leave England.

Talking of immigrants like her, she said, “I wanted to try and portray these weird creatures who have taken control of the British Eden according to some political propaganda. We live in a society where we are encouraged to fear those who are different from us. I believe the opposite is necessary and that if we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes we can nurture empathy. I hope this show will create a dialogue between immigrants and native communities. This is not a critique of life in the UK, it’s an exploration of life in the UK from the perspective of a European who arrived welcomed, ended up being barely tolerated and might have no other option but to leave.”

Cecilia Gragnani came to the UK in 2008 to study at Drama Centre and since has been working in the UK and Italy as an actress and singer. She founded Fumatori di Carta in Italy in 2008 and it became London-based international storytelling collective Paper Smokers in 2014. Their work includes theatre, music, installations, visual arts and film.

Diary of an Expat comes to Alphabetti from 2 to 5 April as part of an eight-venue national tour (more venues to be announced). Tickets are Pay What You Feel.

Peter Lathan