Romanian immigrant’s play bridges cultural gap

A ROMANIAN immigrant who moved to Scotland more than a decade ago has written a play based on a well known poem by “Romania’s Robert Burns” in a bid to change political attitudes towards the eastern European country.

Alexa Ispas has based her play on Mihai Eminescu’s Luceafarul – which holds the world record as the longest love poem ever written.

Ispas, who left her home town of Bucharest in 2001 to study at Edinburgh University, said she wanted to give Scots the chance to experience Romanian culture following the backlash after the borders were opened up to Romanian workers earlier this year.

“Having lived in Scotland since 2001, I was disturbed by the recent explosive upsurge of scare-mongering among the media due to the UK’s granting of work rights to Romanian nationals,” said Ispas, who works as an audio transcriber in a theatre and an exam invigilator at Glasgow University, in addition to her job as a writer.

“I felt like since the middle of last year, the date when the labour market would be opened up was looming and for the first time since I came here, I felt singled out for being Romanian.”

Ispas, 31, who is getting married to a Scot in September, said she had initially shunned her Romanian roots. “I felt that I wanted to spend time only with Scottish people and really fit in here – I even worked hard on sounding Scottish,” she said.

“It took me quite a long time to get over that and it is only in the past few years that I realised that being Romanian is a cultural treasure trove. I am looking at things with new eyes.”

Having considered an adaptation of Eminescu’s work for some time, Ispas started on the project in earnest in January.

“I thought of Eminescu’s magical poem, and decided that this is the time to introduce my Scottish friends to the beautiful gifts that Romanian culture has to offer the world.”

Eminescu, who was one of the great European Romantic poets, alongside Keats and Byron, is Romania’s best known poet.

Called Hyperion, Ispas’s play uses hip-hop, movement, comedy and even a Benny Hill video track to bring Eminescu’s story to a modern Scottish audience.

She has also developed an original character of Eminescu’s, Câlin, into a Scottish “Jack the lad”. He is a fairly minor character in Eminescu’s poem, but I was thinking about him and realised I knew lots of people like him in Scotland,” she said. “I really liked him and wanted to portray him as a character people here recognised.”

Community leader Ioana di Mambro, who runs a range of Romanian cultural and social groups in Glasgow, said: “Scotland and Romania have had something in common since old times: both countries share Saint Andrew as a patron saint. Today highly skilled Romanians work in schools, hospitals, oil industry, universities, thus contributing to Scottish economy and culture.”

The work is to be performed at Govanhill Baths, Glasgow, from Tuesday to Friday with playwright and actor Jo Clifford as the voice of God. The baths, which closed as a swimming pool in 2001, are now a cultural community venue.

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Romanian immigrant’s play bridges cultural gap


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