Teatro Multilingue bring their show Mrs Green to the Camden Fringe, at the Etcetera Theatre. In their company ethos, multiple languages “flow naturally” within one script, without audiences needing to understand all of them.
Half play, half documentary, Francesco Baj has written a play in English, French and Italian that reaches across international boundaries.
Lasr seen in London at the Clapham and Watford Fringes in 2021, Mrs Green has Brexit at its heart through the eyes of two Europeans living in the capital.
Jacques (French, played by Victor Ciri) is a finance lawyer working in a bank; Isabella (Italy, played by Julia Messina) walks dogs and studies at LAMDA as an aspiring actress.
The Mrs Green (English, Dyanne White) of the title is Isabella’s landlady, a hippy type who lives for travel and protest but doesn’t achieve very much and understands even less.
The company have given great importance to the trilingual script, in which each character delivers their own monologues/soliloquies. It certainly mimics the melting pot of language we hear around us each day.
My French is very basic conversational GCSE, my Italian so non-existent I wouldn’t know whether O solo mio is really It’s Now or Never or Just One Cornetto.
For those who do understand all three languages, there may be personal insight into the characters, but mainly this decision serves to polarise and exclude. Rather like getting Brexit done, which is perhaos the point.
At just fifty minutes this play has good intentions and a strong start as Jacques and Isabella meet cute in the park, but it feels undercooked in developing their romance and unkind in mocking Jacques’s off-screen landlady, “Madame Brown”, who likes to watch French films at the cinema each week with her lodger.
The props – three glasses of wine, a green suitcase, mobile phones, written signs which Mrs Green pins on the background curtain throughout the play – are kept to a minimum.
Locations like the park, a bar, the two living spaces, a march, are suggested by lighting changes. The sense of political shifting is set by hearing the words of three successive Prime Ministers (Cameron, May, Johnson) over a loudspeaker.
Mrs Green doesn’t quite say enough or keep us invested in the characters to care about their past or future. It is simply a snapshot of how diversity and pro-European freedom has been shrunk and affected by the referendum which has dogged us ever since.
By the end all three characters are back where they came from: Jacques’s job has been relocated; Isabella heads back to her family in Florence; Mrs Green sighs and sips her wine.
And we go home, thinking of British fish, courgettes rotting in the soil, and how too much cheap foreign labour has left us so vulnerable that Brexit, to some, seemed the only option.
Mrs Green, directed by Flavio Marigliani, continues tomorrow at the Etcetera Theatre as part of the Canden Fringe – purchase tickets here.
*** (and a half)