Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bubble Dramaturgy: Kasia Lech @ Edfringe 2016

A Polish fairy tale about the fall of Communism hits the Fringe!

Silver Merick Studio

Performed in English with a Polish accent and a slight touch of Irish

 ‘Because us Poles, or Polacks as they call us in the West, us car-thieves, drunks, trouble-makers – that’s all we know. Just do it? Do it! But make sure you are wearing Nike shoes! All we can do is start revolutions.’
Julia Holewińska, Bubble Revolution

55 years after the Berlin Wall separated Western and Eastern Europe, 40 years after ration stamps for sugar were introduced in Poland, 27 years after the fall of communism, 24 years after the first Coca-Cola fridge appeared in Polish shops, Polish Theatre Ireland (PTI) is debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe with a one-woman revolutionary fairy tale about growing up during and after the fall of communism in Poland. 

It is a story of a child wishing for an unlimited source of Nutella, it is a story of a girl wanting to be Michael Jackson, and a story of a woman dreaming about love. Bubble Revolution is the story of Wiktoria, aka Vica, and her journey through a magical land filled with memories, colours, scents, and sounds of the past. And as Vica learns that the world has promised her too much, her imaginary world is disturbed by the ‘drab monochrome’ reality of capitalism...

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Julia Holewińska’s play was the inspiration. But I also responded to Helen Cusack’s Irish review in which she commented on how interesting it is that Vica (main character) tries to express her identity in a language that is foreign to her. I thought: why not use the potential of it? 

Silver Merick Studio

Why not use my own status of a ‘foreign body’, my Polish accent with Irish sneaking through it, to add more layers to the text. That is why Bubble Revolution is about growing up as communism in Poland was falling down, but it is also about reframing foreignness.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
In 2008, Ania Wolf, Helen McNulty and I set up Polish Theatre Ireland, a company that merges and intertwists Polish and Irish theatre traditions. John Currivan, Anka Wysota, and Konrad Kania worked with us from early days. Ania brought Beata Baryłka in. 

I ‘collected’ two Englishman on the way: Jamie Mepham and Josh How. Josh is a student of mine, well he graduates this year. He studied technical theatre, so he is funded by our university (Canterbury Christ Church University) to come with me to Edinburgh and provide technical support for the show.

How did you become interested in making performance?
When my brother and I were little, my parents were divorced and when capitalism came in 1990s they both started making separate ‘businesses’. Basically, we were home alone a lot. And I had this game: the Princess (played by me) was spending a night in a village, where she befriended the Peasant Girl (also played by me).

The Princess and the Peasant Girl sat for hours talking, eating bread with salt and washing it down with tap water... No one was impressed by my acting abilities; however I was punished for drinking (undrinkable) tap water... So it seems like acting was in my stars... 

But then this American soap Generations was on TV and Debbi Morgan played a prosecutor and she kept saying that she wouldn’t bend the law for her family... For some reason I found that very inspiring and kept repeating it all the time, and went to a law school, which I left after one year for drama school...

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
I think, recently, intercultural collaboration and translation have underlined my creative processes. In this particular case, I created a document that translated every single cultural reference for John. Our war-negotiations (well that’s how we work) started from there... I believe in collaborations and an actor being a creative artist.

Beata Baryłka

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope the audience will engage with Vica’s (main character) experiences and memories in a way so they resonate with their own memories of childhood. In the ideal world, I hope they will feel like sharing them with me or others after the show. Because, I want the memories and experiences evoked by the performance to be shared between Polish and non-Polish audiences. So we can all see our-child-self in a ‘foreign’ memory.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The audience and their understanding have been at the heart of the process. The play is full of cultural references and we want the audience to appreciate and engage with them. That is why we needed to make sure we gave the audience plenty of signposts, so they could follow the story and engage with the experiences. In the performance itself, there are elements of immersive theatre and multimedia ‘translating’ the context.  

But Bubble Revolution became really a multi-media platform! There is a website with a virtual exhibition of life in 1980s and 1990s Poland, a twitter account that ‘translates’ the reality of communist Poland through random facts and Polish shopping guide, and a YouTube channel with videos that teach speaking Polish through eating sweets. In short, there is plenty for the audience to engage with before, during, and after the performance.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
No. In drama school we were trained to use the ideas of Stanislavsky, Kantor, and many other practitioners, but we were also taught to mix them and twist them according to the needs of what we created on stage. So, I think I embrace this idea in my work. I also think every acting teacher I worked with, every director had an impact on me. Even those I frustrated...

Bubble Revolution is a manifesto of thirty-year-old Poles, the biggest group that emigrated to the UK and Ireland after May 2004. According to the 2011 censuses, Poles are the second-largest foreign community in the UK and the largest in Ireland. Polish language is the second most commonly spoken language in England and Ireland. 

It is the most commonly spoken language in Scottish schools after English. The production, created through intercultural collaboration, uses multimedia and elements of immersive theatre to evoke Polish experiences and memories in a way so they resonate with and are shared between Polish and non-Polish audiences.

‘The current socio-political climate and negativity surrounding Poles highlight the need for more unprejudiced interactions. Bubble Revolution is about change, connection, and sharing. It is about an encounter and dialogue. I want to reframe the idea of foreign. There will also be a word or two of Polish that the audience may learn’, says Kasia Lech, the actor and co-creator of the show.

For the purpose of the Edinburgh Fringe, Bubble Revolution will be accompanied by a virtual exhibition of life in 1980s and 1990s Poland.

Bubble Revolution is proudly supported by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and School of Music and Performing Arts at Canterbury Christ Church University, Polish Aid Foundation Trust, Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Edinburgh, and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

Bubble Revolution
4-28 August (not 16) at 13.45
August 6 and 20 Performances in Polish language
55 minutes
Magic @ New Town Theatre, Freemasons Hall,
96 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3DH

Writer:                         Julia Holewińska
Director/co-creator:     John Currivan

Performer/co-creator: Kasia Lech

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