The Stefan Golaszewski Plays, Bush Theatre, London
A bold head on young shoulders
Wednesday 09 December 2009
Stefan Golaszewski has been making a name for himself – replete with spelling difficulty – at the last two Edinburgh Festivals with monologues that, separately performed at first, have now come to London as a dramatic diptych. Various people had told me that I would "love" this guy's work. The stubborn adolescent in me jibs, of course, at the thought of being so predictable in one's responses (even when I have had no qualms about parading them in a national newspaper for more than 20 years). Also I had the idea that Golaszewski was a stand-up comedian and, with a few honourable exceptions (pre-eminently Stewart Lee and Frankie Boyle, who strike me as being every bit as funny and radical as bona-fide playwrights), I view the breed of male stand-up rather as women must regard insensitive lovers: that's to say, as self-obsessed bores who jab away at you relentlessly, expecting an audible reaction every few seconds.
So it is wonderful to report that I didn't just "love" The Stefan Golaszewski Plays, I adored them. Still ridiculously young, Mr G adds insult to injury by being not only an indecently talented writer but also the high-definition performer of his own semi-autobiographical material. A former president of Cambridge Footlights, he has done stand-up in his time and is best known as a member of the very funny sketch group, Cowards. But with this diptych, he ups the ante, and then some.
His persona has terrific stage presence with the glittery, slightly mad stare of a youth in which the autistic and the artistic are in trenchant tension. He's both a regular-guy nerd and a nuclear reactor of hyperaesthetic response to the world. He's a slacker and proto-visionary; clever as they come, but you wouldn't necessarily want him on the jury if you were up for trial. He's Peep Show and a highly original form of urban pantheism.
He also has an instinctive sense of dramatic structure. These two monologues are bound together by both the strongest lashings of thematic rope and the slenderest of subtle filaments. Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About a Girl He Once Loved is an intoxicated and intoxicating gasp of remembrance about first love. The persona may be a bored gap-year student who gets off by stealing a mate's packet of crisps at the pub, but when a slightly older girl swims into his ken, he becomes like William Blake with a permanent hard-on. Humorously, and with a strong feel for proportion even as it traces the contours of gloriously over-written rapture, Golaszewski captures how first love (especially, perhaps, if conducted at Walthamstow dog track) is like suddenly acquiring an extra sense, or as his persona endearingly puts it, "It feels like it must have felt like to be the first guy to wear glasses".
In the devastating second monologue, Golaszewski reappears ostensibly only slightly older, spiffed up in white suit and chocolate coloured shirt. But in this piece, he has artfully projected him into both a personal and planetary future. From the wittily sketched-in perspective of 2056, he plays a man who gradually emerges as a widower who looks back at a materially rich marriage (he made a killing on The Bill) that was crucially blighted by an event that I must not give away. Vacuum-packed in this man (for better and worse) is the boy in the first monologue. In a series of beautifully arranged surprise detonations, the piece brilliantly nails the kind of 24/7 husbandly devotion that is also an egregious form of neglectful inattention to the real needs of the beloved.
Mr G must go at his own pace; but, speaking selfishly as a consumer, the next Stefan Golaszewski play can't come soon enough.
To 9 January (020 8743 5050)
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