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Corn Exchange - Private Angelo

9th March 2003.

This was the Newbury Weekly News review.

Witty satire on waste of war

Private Angelo, at The Corn Exchange, on Sunday, March 9

Private Angelo was a captivating story told simply, with humour and sincerity. Simon Thoumire on concertina and Karen Wimhurst playing clarinet provided a rich accompaniment, capturing the sounds of Italy as well as many other effects.

The story of lechery, vice and skulduggery, set in 1943 in Italy, was brought to Newbury by the same team that produced Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Private Angelo thinks he is without 'il dono di coraggio' the gift of courage, but tries his best to cope with his path through the tragedy of war. It is a charming journey as he falls in love with two beautiful women, is taken prisoner then joins the army on the other side, eventually returning home to discover that the allies have bombed it flat by mistake.

Philip Contini plays all the characters with ease in adult Jackanory-style and his lilting Scottish/Italian accent is entrancing.

The simple setting with a large backdrop painting of the Madonna, a camouflaged tank, a table doubling as café which with the addition of flags became a battleground complete with upturned jeep (a sack truck) that hit a tree (an artificial Christmas tree) and a plastic bath tub and ropes representing the bridge at Pontifuri were most inventive. The Chianti bottle hanging on the wall in the café becoming the blood bottle in the hospital was typical of the tongue-in-cheek humour of the piece.

There were glorious moments of comedy when Angelo falls in love with Lucrezia and Annunziata and has the courage to take home the black child fathered by an American soldier. This was a witty and satirical comment on the atrocities and waste of war. Through his actions Angelo proves that honour is not just the preserve of the brave but also of the little man through his triumph over adversity and his discovery of the 'gift of courage'.