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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

La Codista

Acteursgroep Wunderbaum & Associazione TRAK

Genre: European Theatre, One Person Show, Theatre

Venue: Zoo Southside


Low Down

A professional queuer tells her tale


According to our protagonist, we spend 16 days a year queuing. That’s an awful lot of waiting. Busy people who are perfectly capable of decorating, gardening, cooking etc. will take short cuts, employing a gardener, or buying a ready meal. It seems, therefore, a logical extension of this idea that the neologism ‘codista’ – professional queuer – should be born. That it emanated from Italy should be even less of a surprise, given their historically legendary levels of bureaucracy. We are told that there are some 650 people employed in this field in Italy alone. But what of the people ? What is their story ?

It seemed somewhat apposite to patiently queue to enter the Zoo Southside Main House space, raked seating looking on to a bare stage. The only prop was an old strip light, the type ubiquitous in administrative, health or educational buildings. Marleen Scholten appears, clutching a briefcase, wearing a mac. The composite effect for the audience was that of timelessness. It might have been any post-war era, until Scholten’s narrative touches upon mobile phones. But the timelessness is a metaphor of course : time seems to stand still when you are in a queue. Bureaucracies around the world seem to care not a jot for the citizens compelled to wait in line – as Scholten puts it, bureaucracies are not designed to be understood.

Wunderbaum’s impressive collective created La Codista partly from the true story of an Italian who invented a job out of necessity and partly from a series of interviews. The codista becomes a microcosm of society. She prepares meticulously for the day’s business, meets different people, rails against people’s behaviour and administrative entities. She is sensitive to the outside world’s perceptions of her (she is given the moniker “the waiting woman”), yet has a place in society, a functional one in fact. In many ways, la codista could offer devastating insights if she had the voice. Marleen Scholten is pitch perfect : she delivers her narrative with charm, wit and is a fine story-teller, the audience seeming to take on the role of quasi-conspirators. The pace of the performance never drops –  Dafne Niglio as dramaturgic advisor takes much credit.

The piece reaches its conclusion with a quote, appropriately enough, from Slauerhoff’s The Woman In The Window ; however, it was the earlier use of John Donne’s No Man Is An Island that particularly resonated – the timeless idea that as humans, we are all connected. La Codista is a fine show, see it if you can.