A TIME TO REAP
by Anna Wakulik translated by Catherine Grosvenor.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 23 March 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45 except 12, 13, 15, March 8.30pm Sat & 21 March 3.30pm.
Captioned 20 Mar 7.45pm.
Runs: 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7565 5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 11 March.
Striking new voice from Poland.
The Royal Court’s International Playwrights programme is one of its unsung heroes. Operating for the past two decades, it’s encouraged emerging playwrights in nearly 70 countries.
24 year old Polish write, Anna Wakulik is one of its latest and youngest graduates. Judging by A Time to Reap, in Catherine Grosvenor’s easy-on-the-ear translation, they have found a vivid, idiosyncratic and vital new voice.
Steeped in her own cultural landscape and dominated by her nation’s devout Catholicism, in Caroline Steinbeis’ intense production Wakulik appears neither to endorse the idea of abortion nor exactly condone it. The issue is at the heart of the play but comes at us indirectly, with a dark gallows-humour and ambivalence threading throughout.
An abiding image epitomises Wakulik and Steinbeis’ approach: a large square festive cake, decorated with icing sugar but dominated at its centre by the figure of a small baby sliced in two by a large cake knife. Ironic and horrific at the same time, Wakulik takes a similar attitude to her female protagonist, the wayward, outspoken Marysia whose sexual urges drive her first into the arms of a priest then Jan, the gynaecologist who aborts the result of this union. When she succumbs to the mixed, masochistic charms of Jan’s London based son, Piotr with the resultant pregnancy, Jan, by this time her protector and lover, draws the line and refuses.
The sting is in the tail. A short futuristic epilogue tells us that Jan will go on to live to 80, Piotr will marry and have three kids, becoming the film director he’s always wanted to be. And Marysia? A school nurse back in her small rural village she will die of `something in the stomach’ cancer, childless.
The sting is the more poignant for its brevity in a roller-coaster production that dips and rides waves of hedonism, cynicism and religious fervour in equal measure.
Wonderful performances from Sinéad Matthews as the waif-like unruly Marysia, Owen Teale powerful and iconic as Jan and Max Bennett as a dangerously hungry for life, bisexual Piotr add up to an exceptional and extraordinary British debut.
Marysia: Sinéad Matthews.
Piotr: Max Bennett.
Jan: Owen Teale.
Director: Caroline Steinbeis.
Designer: Max Jones.
Lighting: Anna Watson.
Sound: Alexander Caplen.
Composer: Tom Mills.
Choreographer: Imogen Knight.
Assistant director: Matt Steinberg.
A Time to Reap was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs on 22 February 2013 and is presented as part of International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project.