Making the Italian connection on Bute

A VIBRANT new musical theatre production, Italia ‘n’ Caledonia, goes on the road throughout Argyll this month, and will be making an appearance in Rothesay.

Written by Mike Maran and Philip Contini, it is a fully staged dramatic storytelling with music from virtuoso accordion player, David Vernon.

Mike Maran is an engaging storyteller who follows the life of one family in particular: Alfonso Crolla who, with his wife Maria and their children, emigrated to Scotland in the early years of the last century in search of a better life.

Like most Italians in Scotland, Alfonso Crolla made and sold ice cream: by the 1930s there was an Italian ice cream shop or fish and chip shop in almost every town and village in Scotland – a unique doorway on to the south Mediterranean.

Once a year the Scottish Italians would come together up for a ‘scampagnata’, or big picnic, usually at Alva Glen in Clackmannanshire, where they would have races, football matches and a tug o’ war championship – the Dundee Italians pulling against the Italians from Aberdeen, and so on. And on the screen we can see those wonderful family picnics, as the characters of Mike’s story come to life before us.

Crolla became one of the more prominent Italians in Scotland. He moved on from ice cream to importing Italian produce, and his business, the famous Valvona & Crolla, is now run by his grandson.

From here the story goes deeper as Mussolini’s Italian Fascist movement seduces many Scottish Italians, and tells of their betrayal when the prison ship Arandora Star was torpedoed as it left Scotland for Canada.

The generation born after the war - including Mike and his co-writer, Philip Contini - are every bit as Scottish as they are Italian. Philip Contini is Alfonso Crolla’s grandson, and he and Mike Maran have written a show that tells of their grandfathers’ generation. Italia ‘n’ Caledonia is their story.

Their Bute performance is on Tuesday, March 27, at the Discovery Theatre at 7.30pm.

Tickets cost £7 (£5 concession) and are available in advance from (01688) 302828.