Still Poles apart

Geraint Lewis's photographs put Polish theatre back where it belongs: in the festival frame.

At the 1985 Festival, I had my mind blown by a Polish theatre company called Teatr Nowy, and bits of it have been missing ever since. Nowy's show, The End of Europe, was performed in a coffin-like, chalky black box, in the middle of the Assembly Rooms stage. Across it, a chain gang of spectral white characters cavorted grimly to a screaming live jazz score.

Polish theatre has had a special place in Edinburgh since the great director Tadeusz Kantor first visited in the 1970s. His dazzling visuals, brooding melancholy and grotesque humour have influenced all that is most powerful in modern British theatre, from Theatre de Complicite to the RSC.

In this year's Festival, which is short on high-calibre thrills, Geraint Lewis's exhibition recalls some of the most vivid moments of Polish theatre seen in Edinburgh over the past 10 years. In 1988, Teatr Nowy returned with Olsnienie - portraying the whole world as if it were a circus and its people were horses. In 1990, Teatr Grupa Chwilowa used Russian actors and Russian language to break 100 Edinburgh hearts with A Stop in the Desert, performed in the most evocative of all fringe theatres, the much- missed Richard Demarco Gallery in Blackfriars Street.

Kantor's own company finally returned in triumph in 1991 with Tomorrow Is My Birthday, graduating ironically from the Fringe to the main Festival only months after the great man's death. Has the Festival always been so slow to make such promotions? Perhaps there are hidden gems in this year's Polish programme, largely put together by Tomec Borg, who runs the Hill Street Theatre (look out for Gimpel). But if the hunting gets hard, treat yourself to a deep draught of Polish visual delight, chilled for ever in Geraint Lewis's dark, penetrating photographs.

n 'Impressions of Polish Theatre', Venue 169. To 31 Aug

Tom Morris is artistic director of BAC

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