Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"The Little World of Don Camillo" - February 2007

Giovanni Guareschi's stories of Catholic priest Don Camillo and his nemesis Peppone, the local Communist mayor, in their post-war Italian town don't seem to be that well known in the UK. As a result I had little idea of what to expect. The blurbs for this production by Mike Maran were also a little vague on how it was to be staged as well, so it really was a bit of a venture into the unknown as we entered the Circle Studio at the Citizens.

I turned out to be correct in thinking I was about to see something reminiscent of an Italian "Ballykissangel" or "Hamish Macbeth" - typical of the gentle comedy loved of a Sunday evening on BBC1 (although please note I'm not including "Last of the Summer Wine" in this category). I was however very wrong in my guess that the performance would be a small cast of 5 or 6 - in fact it's largely a one man show with Mike Maran acting as story teller with musical accompaniment and occasional assistance from his accordion and trumpet players. And it is lovely to have live on stage music as part of a show - something all too rare these days.

As a format this works well as Maran takes us through a series of lighthearted tales of how the two enemies share a grudging respect for one another despite their attempts to gain the upper hand in public matters. Maran also takes time out to explain how this reflects the wider picture in Italy of the time and also to give an insight through his own family history. It all feels a little like regressing back to childhood and sitting watching a cracking Jackanory with Bernard Cribbens narrating.

This isn't really a laugh-out-loud kind of show - more gentle chortles, and I'm not completely sure that as early thirtysomethings we are really the target audience, but it made for a very enjoyable evening.

Now this shouldn't really be a criticism, as I've already said the stories do suit the style of presentation and Maran does a great job of bringing the characters to life, but I do also feel that the material could be (and in future no doubt will be) used to even greater effect with a small cast of characters and fully performed.