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March 1, 2013 7:25 pm
British theatre has been slow to address what is now one of the UK’s two largest ethnic minorities. Only India (possibly) now outstrips Poland as a source of non-native population. Yet the Polish dramatic presence has so far, with a few honourable exceptions, been negligible. Anna Wakulik’s three-hander is the second Polish play to be staged at the Royal Court, 32 years after the first. There’s a lot of ground to make up.
In the context of this paucity, there is a danger that when such work is seen it operates merely as a strain of exotica. Wakulik’s play by and large overcomes this by turning the tables: in its depiction of the triangular relationship between Marysia, Piotr and his father Jan (a gynaecologist with whom Marysia has graduated from patient to receptionist and lover), it is London that is the exotic location, where Piotr is living a dissipated student life (or is he?) and where, when Marysia visits him, the triangle becomes problematic. But Wakulik’s principal setting and focus remains Poland, and in particular its relationship with the Catholic Church in the matter of abortion. (You can now deduce much of the plot of the 90-minute piece.)
The social and cultural resonance of the play is partly lost on us (although I would be interested to see it play to an Irish audience). However, director Caroline Steinbeis makes up for this with a taut, beautifully designed production. Max Jones turns the Theatre Upstairs into a chapel, and Alexander Caplen percolates a series of soundscapes through it.
All three actors are impressive: Owen Teale as Jan, Max Bennett as Piotr and in particular Sinéad Matthews as Marysia – an intense, compelling performance. It would be nice to hope that this play might break out from the Court’s more usual audience to the Polish-British community, but that may be a little sanguine yet. It is, though, a decent step on the way to proper dramatic representation.
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