Aida Rocci on Two Rounds

Written by Oscar-nominee Cristina Comencini, Two Rounds comes to Jermyn Street Theatre in a new translation from Aida Rocci as part of the theatre’s Footprints Festival. The translation brings the flavour, passion, and authenticity of a story that has captivated Italy for decades to the UK for the first time.

Opening this evening, Rocci directs an all-female cast comprised of Natalie Cutler, Flora Sowerby, Daria Mazzocchio and Saria Steyl. Ahead of opening, we caught up with Rocci to discuss the play and finding rhythm of language in the translation.

Q&A with Aida Rocci

What can you tell us about Two Rounds?

Oh, I can tell you plenty! But let’s start with the basics. Two Rounds is a translation of an Italian play, Due Partite, written by one of the most important contemporary Italian writers, Cristina Comencini. The play has had wild success in Italy, attracting leading actresses, securing national tours and even getting a film adaptation.

The play tells the stories of two generations of women. In the first act, four mothers meet to play cards in the 60s. One of them is (very) pregnant, and the others are trying to give her advice and comfort her, but things don’t always go according to plan. In the second act, we are taken to the 90s and we meet the daughters, and we get to see what has changed (or failed to change) in those 30 years.

In a nutshell, Two Rounds is a really funny comedy that carries very deep themes about womanhood, motherhood, friendship, life purpose, and hope for the future.

This is the first time that Two Rounds is being done in English, so we are very excited to bring it to Jermyn Street Theatre as part of Footprints Festival, thanks to the support of Arts Council Funding, Enfi Teatro, Teatro Il Parioli and Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Londra.

The cast in rehearsals. Photo: Giulia Delprato

What was it that attracted you to the play?

I have a very long history with this play. I saw the film when I was a college student and I was then interested in reading the play. Soon I started noticing how that film had become a reference in my life. I would think of the characters or quote moments in the play. It’s been more than a decade and I feel like I’ve grown as a woman with this script, so to me it’s hard to pinpoint all the things that I love about the play.

But because you’re asking me after spending some weeks in a rehearsal room with a fabulous cast, I think that what really attracts me to the play is the characters – how well-written and interesting they are. They feel like real women, with all their nuance and contradictions and complexities. As such, the play doesn’t feel heavy or preachy, but alive and intimate. I think women get to see in the characters traits and stories they recognise in themselves, or their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and friends.

I also think that the message of the play (I won’t give a spoiler, don’t worry) is so resonant nowadays and it gives so much hope for the work we still have to do to bring equality to all genders.

How difficult was it to capture the sense of the original text in a translation?

It was a long process! I always knew that it was very important to preserve the lightness and humour of the original, which required a lot of work to find the right rhythm in translation. I was lucky to work with brilliant co-translators who really helped hone that language. But even after arriving at a ready-to-stage version of the script, we have found so much more depth in rehearsals. As the cast and I inhabited the play’s world and embodied the characters, we were able to really refine the translation. Being able to direct as well as translate has helped me bring the essence of the original not only in the words but also in the intentions and the relationships. It’s been such an inspiring project.

The cast in rehearsals. Photo: Giulia Delprato

What kind of opportunities and challenges does the Jermyn Street Theatre’s intimate environment present you as a director?

Jermyn Street Theatre is the perfect venue for Two Rounds’ introduction to London. It has an intimate feeling that really matches the play’s essence and its audiences are curious, driven theatre lovers, so I think they will really enjoy Two Rounds. Also, as a Creative Associate for Jermyn Street, I’ve had many opportunities to get to know the space and the team in order to prepare for this production.

What do you hope audiences take away from the play?

I hope the audience falls in love with the play just like I’ve been for more than 10 years! I hope it makes the audience feel seen and understood, no matter their gender or age. As they leave the theatre, I would like them to feel hope for the future and determination to see that change happen. I also truly hope that Two Rounds opens up London’s appetite for translated work. There are great translated scripts out there, waiting for an opportunity to be staged.

Two Rounds is at Jermyn Street Theatre from 7 to 10 February