Giuditta Mingucci and Rosie MacPherson
Nobody could deny that Paines Plough’s The Place I Call Home Season is lacking in novelty or ambition. Having initiated one series of tiny plays by sending them as WhatsApp messages and another using e-mail, the final offering starts out with a package received in the post.
In fact, an innovative approach could be seen as brave or foolhardy in these difficult times, since this critic’s package failed to materialise for six days, only appearing after the show’s nominal sell-by date. Pleasingly, the powers that be managed to rescue the situation.
Posta Aerea is co-production between Paines Plough, Elsinor Centro di Produzione Teatrale in Milan and Stand & Be Counted Theatre. It comprises a series of what would have been penpal communications in the old days between a pair of teenagers who met on an Italian beach.
Aisha from Sheffield, played by Nikki Patel, is full of beans as she surveys the prospect of GCSE exams in the early months of 2020. Her opening interactions with Genny Bianchi’s Tania from Riccione in Italy come by way of letter and postcard, both included in our gift pack.
While Aisha is a typical Yorkshire lass, determinedly phobic about any foreign language, including Italian, her slightly older friend writes completely fluent English, although in verbal communications prefers her native tongue (supplemented by subtitles).
After a series of occasional hardcopies fly backwards and forwards, detailing the relatively mundane events that make up lives under lockdown but looking forward to a reunion on a beach towards the end of the year, there is an exciting development.
Aisha suggest that they begin to communicate via Facebook. As a result, everyone subscribing to the series gets an opportunity to login to Tania’s Facebook account and enjoy a series of generally tongue-in-cheek video messages.
What might be regarded as a simple teen soap becomes rather more, given that what they are experiencing will have been unique to anybody in Western Europe under the age of about 85, i.e. nobody has faced anything to compare with the pandemic since the Second World War.
By the end of the letters, postcards and video messages, followers will have not only a good idea about the personalities of these two youngsters but also some feel for the alternative experiences of COVID 19 in Italy and the UK.
To top off this unusual theatrical presentation, directed by Charlotte Bennett and Katie Posner, plucky devotees are asked to make a telephone call to Tania’s mobile number, which helpfully is on a UK account, meaning that the calling cost is local rate. There, they will eavesdrop on a final episode, which it would be inappropriate to reveal in a review.
Posta Aerea makes great use of its varied media and is novel and enjoyable if not always desperately challenging.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher