Following a three-month residency at the Royal Court Theatre in 2004, the Romanian playwright Gianina Carbunariu wrote Kebab – and the play now opens in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, directed by Orla O'Loughlin.
The play explores some of the crueller truths of immigration, and what people will sacrifice to chase their dreams. The protagonist, Madalina, leaves Romania to meet her boyfriend in Dublin, and ends up working in a kebab shop before diving into a career in internet pornography.
"I started writing plays at 15 years old. It is still a difficult time to get plays produced in Romania," says Carbunariu, 30, who also directs. "There has not been much interest in new Romanian drama because we are stuck in the tradition of director's theatre that reinterprets the classics. Even after the 1990s, the older playwrights kept this very metaphorical language. The emerging new generation, that I am part of, is more interested in a direct and honest approach. But there is not enough choice of independent venues to perform new Romanian drama and institutional theatres are still not eager to produce them."
Carbunariu studied Romanian and French literature at the National University of Theatre and Cinema Studies in Bucharest. She was a founding member of dramAcum in 2002, a project that integrates young Romanian playwrights into a theatrical team and promotes new drama through performance.
Her first production, 2004's Stop the Tempo, about three youngsters who sabotage a public electric supply, was staged in a smoky cafe in Bucharest with actors using torches. "The fact we were using flashlights criticised the institutional theatres that can put on big productions that say nothing," Carbunariu says.
How is it for young Romanian playwrights today? "I was about 11 when the revolution came. After the 1990s we needed some time to find our way. We are still searching for it."
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