It comes as no great surprise to any of us that Brexit is a hot topic at the Fringe again this year, with multiple shows picking up the topic to deliver various messages. Diary of an Expat isn’t necessarily one of them but it’s difficult not to think of the UK’s exit from the European Union as you watch the engaging performance from Cecilia Gragnani.
As the title suggests this is Cecilia’s story of her move to London from her native Italy, she’s been in the UK almost ten years when the referendum happens and instead of fleeing the country she applies for citizenship. But, for most of the show this is Cecilia talking about her time in London, and often talking to London in the form of a voiceover from Steve Wickenden.
Gragnani is a very engaging performer, drawing the audience into her tale and very subtly highlighting the irony that exists all around her. Early on, there’s a very entertaining segment when she reads to us the questions that she’s expected to be able to answer from the Government book ‘Life in The United Kingdom’.
Surrounded by a black and white cityscape and holding up postcards to define times and places, she talks about not claiming benefits and working three jobs, all while her neighbour’s sneer at her way of life. Almost every story she tells makes you wonder why anyone would want to move to the UK, yet Gragnani remains eternally optimistic and grateful.
The humour that comes along with Diary of an Expat is both surprising and welcome, it’s a very natural kind of funny that doesn’t feel forced or overly contrived. As our protagonist describes her “identity being diluted” there’s a wonderful charm that cannot be overlooked.
Diary of an Expat is a satirical exploration of life in Britain from the point of an outsider, who desperately wants, and is succeeding in becoming a naturalised British citizen. It’s not a show where Brexit is the main theme, but hearing Cecilia’s story makes the situation we find ourselves in as a country seem ridiculous. This is one of those rare productions that makes you think long and hard about a subject, without even realising it’s had that affect on you.