Dybbuk, King's Theatre, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

"Are we all possessed by dybbuks in our ordinary life?" asks Krzysztof Warlikowski, whose production of Dybbuk with the Polish TR Warszawa company opened the theatre strand of Edinburgh's International Festival. He's pretty obsessed with the subject, having painstakingly adapted Szymon Anski's play The Dybbuk into a version that combines it with a short story by Hanna Krall.

So the traditional tale of the bride whose body is inhabited by the restless soul of her true love is interwoven with that of a young man possessed by the spirit of his brother, murdered in Treblinka. Memories of the Holocaust and of a rejected cultural heritage are tossed into the mix, which is seeped in Judaic symbolism and presented in Polish with English surtitles. At nearly two and a half hours, it's a lot to take in.

The connection between the stories is not immediately obvious, although Warlikowski raises interestingly similar issues. Pawel Mykietyn's soundscape adds a haunting dimension to the dialogue, and there are some striking visual moments, especially those involving Magdalena Cielecka (best known for her role in Andrzej Wajda's Oscar-nominated Katyn) who gives an intense portrayal of the young woman taken over by the dybbuk. It is an interesting and courageous idea, acted with tremendous conviction, but, on the evidence of a thin house, not a crowd-puller.

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