The Little World of Don Camillo
Giovanni Guareschis stories of a village priest in post-war Italy lend themselves ideally to the low-key storytelling styles of Mike Maran and Philip Contini. Sitting in an authentic looking grotto in the rear of an Italian delicatessen, the two take turns standing to narrate a tale, using minimal props and the natural gestures of a storyteller.
The running theme of Guareschis books is the amicable conflict between the modest priest and the villages communist mayor. Sometimes one wins, as when Don Camillo quietly blackmails the Communists into diverting some of their funds into his charitable projects, and sometimes the other, as when his attempt to keep a red-sponsored band out of a religious procession is foiled.
More often though and this is the essence of Guareschis vision the two old friends find themselves on the same side, whether it is sharing a hunting dog or restoring an angel to the church tower. It is the quality of warmth and the conviction that good spirits matter more than politics which the gently ironic style of Maran and Contini capture most effectively. They are supported by a pair of musicians who provide, among other interludes, the unique sound of Verdi scored for accordion and jazz trumpet.
Gerald Berkowwitz, The Stage
Based on the novels by Italian journalist and humorist, Giovanni Guareschi, this production tells the story of the everlasting rivalry between the priest, Don Camillo, and the Communist mayor, Peppone, in an Italian village where everyone loves Verdi.
Mike Maran and Philip Continis enchanting partnership has spawned such successful productions as Private Angelo and Captain Corellis Mandolin, and The Little World of Don Camillo is no exception. Their blend of storytelling and acting is strikingly picturesque and, helped by fantastic performances by Colin Steele on trumpet and Martin Green on accordion, the result is a rare find. The performers retain the charisma of Guareschis novels, while injecting into his tales their own blend of inviting enthusiasm and quick-witted humour. They seem able to communicate and connect with their audience on a very personal level like your oldest friends recounting their fondest memories.
The Little World of Don Camillo is both amusing and touching without being sentimental. It is a veritable showcase of the kindness of humanity and its more wanton sides, and an uncommon theatrical treasure.
Yasmin Sulaiman, Theatre Fest
Anyone who grew up on Giovanni Guareschis winsome tale of the Communist mayor and the Catholic priest in post war Italy will love this show. In Emilia-Romagna the battle continues priest versus mayor, church versus state, while the River Po flows chuckling by. Mike Maran and Philip Contini tell the stories well and the audience rock with laughter at their favourite tales. The priest and the mayor slog it out seeking an advantage, but harbouring a respect and even affection for each other. Each follows his official party line but not always with total enthusiasm.
Some of the tales are a bit too whimsical and cosy for todays harsher world. They feel as if they have come from another era, which indeed they have. With the decline in the power of institutional religion and Marxist politics the dialogues dont have their former cutting edge. Nevertheless there is much amusement in the manoeuvres of the mayor and the priest as they seek to outwit one another and the music is a delight.
The Herald, Ron Ferguson