Underbelly, Bristo Square – Ermintrude
13:15: 1 hour 15 minutes
To 27 August (not 21)
17 August 2023
Maggie Rose in Edinburgh
The Milan in Temporarily Yours isn’t the city of glitz, an opera house, fashion and design that outsiders are generally familiar with. Rather, it is the one inhabited by sex workers whose nationality, age, social class and ethnicity vary considerably.
Italian writer, actor and drama teacher Greta Zamparini worked as a volunteer, with the Milanese charity, Padri Somaschi, which supports trafficked women. During this spell she gathered material for the play which renders the characters and their situations strikingly authentic. Other characters are taken from the book Malamore by the print journalist and television presenter Concita De Gregorio.
As the show opens, in the role of a high-end escort, this talented actor pulls the audience in by talking to one of the spectators as if he were a client, coyly asking him what exactly he wants and if he can is in a position to pay for her services.
The escort is a university graduate, who has opted for sex work because it pays more than any other job she would ever find. (This detail has acquired resonance during the 2023 fringe festivals since the trade newspaper The Stage has conducted an interview with a theatre creator who covered the considerable costs of bringing a project to the city by performing sex work.)
Suddenly the actor switches to the role of a destitute Eastern European woman, cooking some food by the roadside, as cars race deafeningly by. She speaks in very broken English, every so often shouting in equally broken Italian. To survive, it is clear that this woman had no other choice than to prostitute herself.
Later, Zamparini becomes another foreign worker whose family has sold her to criminal traffickers for a huge sum of money, promising she will become a princess and meet her Prince Charming.
After many years as a prostitute, we meet her back in her home town. She is prematurely old, disheveled, penniless and a shell of a human being. Greta Zamparini relates these tales, endowing each woman with a specific physicality and language, and inviting us to understand that each one of them has a different story to tell, different life experiences and different aspirations for the future.
This topical (it would always be but the issue is grabbing headlines) piece is written and directed by Zamparini, together with Federica Bognotti. As with many aspects, the title has a clever dual meaning.