I wish I were smart enough or educated enough to write this review in multiple languages (my editor might even uncharitably suggest they wish I could write it in one!), so hats off to Teatro Multilingue who present Mrs Green in three different languages!
We have English from the eponymous Mrs Green (Dyanne White), Italian from dog walker and acting student Isabella (Julia Messina), and French from work-experience banker Jacques (Victor Ciri). This is both an ambitious and fascinating concept and one that I had been looking forward to a lot.
The trilingual performance is interesting, but it turns out to be somewhat distracting. Is this me or is this the play? While I have some French, enough to follow along with bits and pieces of Jacques, I’m playing catch-up, I have to think and translate in my head and so I’m behind for the next line or the next scene. It makes me think that despite the promises that you don’t need to understand the other languages, Mrs Green might be a much richer experience if you do. Of course, this could be a choice by director Flavio Marigliani and writer Francesco Baj to leave out some of the audience – after all, would that not fit with the choice to Brexit, on which the play comments?
It feels like it is too technical. It is so engrossed in telling a story in three languages that it overlooks the story itself. We all know how Brexit turns out, but Mrs Green feels more interested and invested in that than in the story of the European couple at its centre. I’d have liked more time with them and less time with lines about passports for fish and other Brexit arguments. It also makes the play feel dated, tied to that specific period in and around the Brexit referendum, whereas other themes of immigration and relationships across languages are timeless.
There is fun and convincing chemistry between Messina and Ciri. Their meet-cute and mime are funny and the ongoing jokes about the dogs are entertaining. The three languages make us focus harder on the actors, their movements and their bodies; there is a heightened awareness of their mime and the physical theatre, and all do a fine job with this. Some of their relationship is in their own languages and it is here that it’s slightly easier to follow along with the French or Italian.
Full of ideas and with a perfectly solid foundation, Mrs Green feels on the verge of being more than the sum of its parts. Until then, I very much admire the concept and the intent. This production is good: one day it could be great.
Written by: Francesco Baj
Directed by: Flavio Marigliani
Produced by: Teatro Multilingue
Mrs Green plays at Etcetera Theatre as part of Camden Fringe 2022. Further information can be found on Teatro Multilingue website here.