Cecilia Gragnani, an Italian expat living in London, brings her one-woman show to the Fringe at Belly Laugh at Underbelly Cowgate. The hour-long testimony discusses Gragnani’s excitement over living in the UK, adjusting to cultural differences, and fears over the rising anti-immigration sentiment following the Brexit referendum.
The original piece by Gragnani switches from comedy to drama, discusses the rises and falls of being a young European expat in London. She poses questions to the audience from the real British citizenship test (there is resounding ‘False’ in answer to a question about skipping queues without asking), chats to the city of London (a disembodied voice provided by Steve Wickenden), and reflects on the strange cultural rules she’s had to take on (such as following every request to with ‘lovely’).
Gragnani’s eternal optimism at arriving in London is charming, and although it wanes, it’s refreshing to see a piece that places so much focus on the excitement about moving abroad. The risk with a one-woman show is that the energy only stays as high as she chooses to keep it, and at some points it does lag. It also tends to repeat itself, but the content is entertaining enough for us not to mind.
The show does bring up some thought-provoking material; Gragnani feels ‘safe’ because she is deemed a ‘useful’ migrant, being an expat. There is a particularly poignant scene at the end, following the Brexit decision, in which she implores the audience to try and understand her fears. She expected to arrive and feel like a ‘European among Europeans’. Instead she is called a ‘filthy foreigner’ in a country she has tried so hard to make her own.
Comical and touching at the same time, Diary of an Expat is an entertaining piece for British citizens, expats, and everyone in between.