Il Ritorno/The Return, by contemporary Italian playwright Sergio Pierattini, premiered during the 2007/2008 season to critical acclaim, winning the Critics Award for best new play.
Set in Bergamo, Northern Italy, the play takes place in the kitchen of an Italian family, whose daughter has recently returned from a long absence. As the plot the develops, it is revealed that she has spent the past seven years in prison for the death of her fiancée, a Moroccan immigrant who had been employed by her father. Pierattini’s script juxtaposes the seriousness of the material, and its commentary on intercultural relations, with darkly humorous dialogue, a surrealist sensibility and a creeping sense of claustrophobia to capture the disintegration of the traditional Italian family.
The play is based in part on on-site research conducted by Pierattini in Bergamo, a city that has experienced rapid change as a result of industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s. Pierattini interviewed newly wealthy locals in the gentrified suburb of La Malpensata and recent immigrants in the centre city neighbourhood of Via Quarenghi; the complex picture that emerged is reflected in the play, prompting critic Rossella Battisti to describe the playwright as “a sensitive narrator of small, contemporary tragedies” (L’Unita, 2008). While the play’s given circumstances arise from a specific Italian context, British audiences will likely see parallels with contemporary life in the UK as they discover a darker, less-familiar side of Italy.
Born in Sondrio, Northern Italy, in 1958, Sergio Pierattini graduated from the Accademia Nazionale di Arte Drammatica “Silvio d’Amico” in Rome and since then he has been active as a writer, actor and director. Since 2005, he has taught radio playwriting at the National Film School in Rome. His award-winning plays include The Return (Best Play, National Association of Critics 2008; short-listed for the Ubu Prize); Un Mondo Perfetto (Special Jury Award, Riccione Theatre Festival 2007); Il raggio bianco (Flaiano Prize 2006); and La Maria Zanella (The Ubu Prize 2005).
We were lucky to strike a collaboration with translator Sabrina Cammarata and playwright Matthew Morrison, whose work has been recently produced by renowned London theatres such as the Gate and the Finborough.
Their greatest challenge was to re-create the “colour” of Northern Italian in English. Since we firmly believe our strength lies in our being a non-British group presenting a foreign play using foreign accents, we decided with Matt and Sabrina NOT to use an English dialect. Not only because it would be ludicrous for us to pretend to be from Sheffield or Nottingham, but mainly because we chose this play for ability to talk about universal themes through events taking place in a very specific context.
But how to translate Northern Italian idioms in English? How to recreate an homogeneous world that an audience will “get” straight away? These are the challenges we’ve battling with.
In order to have a feedback and create an interest towards the play and its themes we have been offering workshops to University students of playwrighting, translation studies and Italian.
We’ve also presented a first draft in front of a selected audience of writers and directors at the Actors Centre in December 2011.
Encouraged by the feedback we received, and more confident about our choices regarding language and translation, we’re now entering the process of production.
Our cast – Jean-Paul Dal Monte, Elena Mazzon, Lara Parmiani, Anna Elena Pepe and Federico Zanni – will be directed by Becka McFadden, who has previously directed LegalAliens in “Neither here nor there”.
In order to raise funds to cover for our work and expenses for this first stage of the project we’ve applied for Arts Council Development funds. However, in the present climate, public funds are hard to obtain, therefore we’re also organising fund-rasing events such as parties and raffles and we warmly welcome donations.
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