A Time To Reap, Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London
Friday 01 March 2013
One of Poland's hottest political topics - abortion and the Catholic Church - is the animating force in this extraordinary three-hander by 22 year old Anna Wakulik. Already seen in her native country, the piece came into being under the auspices of the Royal Court's excellent international department.
The theatre now mounts the UK premiere in a brilliantly acted production by Caroline Steinbeis that does a superb job of releasing and focusing the play's fierce, off-the-wall energies as it veers between vivid interaction and tumbling, confessional commentary and as it ricochets between Warsaw, London and its recurring point of reference: the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in the mountainous pilgrim village of Niepokalanow.
Max Jones's adroit traverse design reconfigures the Theatre Upstairs so that it resembles a slightly unsettling and hallucinatory church-of-the-mind. Under the Nazis and the Communists, abortion was widely available in Poland. But not since 1993 and a recent move to tighten the anti-abortion legislation still further by scrapping all the categories of humane exception came within a squeak of being voted for in parliament.
A Time To Reap is not, however, an “issue” play in any narrow sense of the term. Instead, by plunging us into the messy predicament of its characters, it takes a sharply ambivalent and provocative look at the tangled question of what has been gained and what lost in post-Communist society.
Jan, the robustly secular and successful gynaecologist, is no principled pro-choice campaigner but a man who sardonically cashes in on the situation (“Thank you, Catholic Church”) by performing illegal “procedures” that cost the equivalent of a month's salary.
Marysia, a seventeen year old who been impregnated by consensual sex with a priest, turns to him for help and winds up becoming both his receptionist and his lover. Later, history will partly repeat itself and a bitterly acrimonious triangle form, after her whirlwind holiday in London where Max's son, Piotr, has abandoned his studies for a life of wild hedonism.
Owen Teale beautifully builds up a growing sense of inner rot and darkness in the strapping abortionist who has benefited from a system he theoretically abhors and Max Bennett is brilliantly driven and dangerous as the son who is on the run from that kind of Poland (while expecting dad to pick up the tab). As Marysia, Sinead Matthews sheds skin after skin in a heartbreaking and astonishingly layered performance. Resoundingly recommended.
To March 23; 0207 565 5000
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Saudi Muslim cleric claims the Earth is 'stationary' and the sun rotates around it
Skrillex and Diplo's 24-hour DJ set shut down by police after 18 hours
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Justin Kelly interview: On James Franco playing a gay man who renounces his homosexuality
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts