Tally’s Blood

Perth Theatre

Neil Cooper

Four stars

Why Ann Marie Di Mambro’s Scottish-Italian family saga has never been made into a film is a mystery. First seen in 1990, Di Mambro’s drama charts the lives of the extended Pedreschi clan from just before the Second World War to the 1950s. Through this we see an entire diaspora move from being the core of the local community to becoming pariahs once Italy sides with Germany. As peace falls, an international game of kiss-chase ensues as the play moves into rom-com territory.

At the heart of this are Massimo, Rosinella and their niece Lucia, who sets the tone as a small but defiantly strong willed child. Lucia bonds with local lad Hughie, who ends up helping out in Massimo’s ice cream shop while his sister Bridget steps out with Massimo’s brother Franco. Such alliances, alas, are shattered by war and the prejudices it provokes. For Rosalina and Bridget, the costs are even greater.

Ken Alexander’s production embraces the initial breeziness of Di Mambro’s writing to help heighten the play’s depths, brought to life by a set of wonderfully empathetic performances.

Andy Clark and Carmen Pieraccini capture the long-term side effects of enforced separation as Massimo and Rosinella, while Dani Heron shows a similar change in Bridget. Paul J Corrigan meanwhile, makes a smitten Franco before doubling up as Lucia’s father, Luigi.

It is Chiara Sparkes as Lucia and Craig McLean as Hughie whose sparky interplay offers some kind of hope beyond their own enforced travails. Their joyful performances are played out on designer Fraser Lappin’s small town tenement exterior, with Hilary Brooks’ sound design lending an understated emotional drive to proceedings.

While Di Mambro has packed an entire mini series into her down the generations epic, one can’t help but wonder how things turned out for Lucia and co in the swinging sixties and beyond.

As it stands, this co-production between Perth Theatre, The Gaiety Theatre, Ayr and Cumbernauld Theatre is a welcome revisitation to an ever-maturing work that taps into notions of exile and integration with wit, warmth and a huge heart.