EUROPA: Lutz Hubner, Malgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk, Tena Stivicic, Steve Waters
Birmingham Rep, The Studio
Runs: 1h 55m, no interval, 16 – 19 October 2013
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 16 10 13
An interesting exercise, but not a play.
EUROPA is a bold experiment, but it’s one that possibly should not have been embarked upon. Several years ago, Birmingham Rep commissioned a play to be written by three established writers in the region; it didn’t really work. Hence, to commission a piece to be written by four writers, each one in a different European country, speaking a different language, might be seen to be foolhardy.
The result is a strange, surrealistic piece; intriguing threads run through it (European identity; what is art; what is the purpose of Eurocrats?) but they never come together sufficiently strongly to create an engrossing whole. The piece, while clearly performed with conviction, lacks coherence. Hanging over the whole is some heavy-handed (very) symbolism which is enough to put off the most dedicated theatre-goer. Europe / Europa / The Rape of Europa (on two levels) feels awkwardly conceived.
Other aspects of EUROPA are puzzling. To endeavour to create a multi-language piece to explore the notion of European identity is a valid aim. But if such a work is to be achieved it must be truly multi-language and work within its own terms. EUROPA isn’t; it constantly uses sur-titles. Sur-titles are bad enough in opera – but at least opera tends to move slowly. In this production, spoken words often rush by and you can’t keep up. And, of course, while watching the titles, you miss what’s happening in the world of the play (the actors’ manipulation of the setting is important and interesting). Half way through I gave up any real effort to read the sur-titles and frequently failed to grasp what was actually going on.
All a great shame since the acting company, drawn from countries across Europe, invest much energy and commitment into this piece; I wish they were better served by their texts.
There are some moments when your spirits are lifted. Most notably towards the end as the Englishman begins a joke about a man going into a pub; the task is to try to tell it in a way that neither alienates, favours, nor insults any group in Europe – it’s very funny. Then there’s the delightful intrusion of Rossini’s PETITE MESSE SOLONNELLE – always a delight.
Director: Janusz Kica
Dramaturg: Caroline Jester
Set Designer: Ivana Jonke
Lighting Designer: Simon Bond
Composer: Stafan Weglowski