Italia 'n' Caledonia is an historical tale about the Italians who emigrated to Scotland from the mid eighteenth century onwards and the contributions they made to Scottish culture and society. The story is centered around the ancestors of Philip Contini - the Crolla family - and their difficult decision to leave their home village in Italy to come to Scotland and open a cafe in Edinburgh.
Performed by Mike Maran who is accompanied by David Vernon on the accordian, this fascinating tale is as much about Edinburgh's local history as anything else. Heartwarming and at times heartbreaking, it follows the rise and subsequent fall in popularity of the Scots-Italian community in the run up to the second world war.
Although at first Maran's narrative style comes across as slow and clunky, one comes to realise that this is only because it fits in with the old style home video projection of the Italian picnic that opens the show. When the performance gets well underway however, he proves to be an enthusiastic and energetic performer. Whether he's playing Mrs Crolla fighting with her husband or the young Scottish policeman eating spaghetti for the first time, Maran executes the one man show with vigour. On a related note with the spaghetti, a real highlight of the show, is the detailed descriptions of the food that the Italians sold upon arrival to Scotland. It is enough to make ones stomach rumble and so it is fortunate then that Maran distributes complimentary ice cream cones to some of the audience during the show!
The highlight of the performance however, was Vernon's accordion accompaniment. The music really helped to set the tone of the show and created a brilliant atmosphere, none more so than when the music stopped during serious moments creating an electric kind of tension.
If you are interested in Italian culture or local Edinburgh history this a must see show, if not then it is worth going along for a fun night out, even if only for the chance of a free ice cream cone!