by Witold Gombrowicz.

The Network Theatre Underneath Waterloo Station 246A Lower Road Waterloo SE1 8SJ To 30 January 2011.
Wed, Fri, Sat 7.30pm Suns 4pm.
Runs: 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS 020 3509 2827.
Review: Carole Woddis 14 September.

Sturdy, if begging for more.
It’s always good to discover a new venue in London. I’ve no doubt they will keep sprouting, like the proverbial spring shoots, recession notwithstanding.

The Network Theatre, huddling beside Waterloo station, is apparently not exactly a new venue but one that has been going for some time, only recently come to light courtesy of this new version of Ivona, Princess of Burgundia from comparatively new company, Sturdy Beggars.

A company set up by three years ago by alumni of the The Poor School at King’s Cross, Sturdy Beggars’ revival of Polish writer, Witold Gombrowicz’s 1938 surreal fable about a prince who marries a commoner obviously carries obvious contemporary parallels.

But the allusions here resonate less with now than timeless themes to do with the nature of love, self-love, being loved, weakness and humiliation. Why does weakness/ugliness bring out violence in people?

Intriguing ideas which Gombrowicz, with typical Polish flamboyance, presents with a wild and edgy humour that takes some riding if you are to get the most out of his whirling juxtapositions and associations.

Sturdy Beggars only partly succeed. Played by an all-male company, costumed in an anachronistic world of luxurious velvets and satins, blanched-out faces and exaggerated eye makeup, the effect produced by director Kos Mantzakos is at once arresting and highly dramatic.

But the subversiveness of Gombrowicz’s vision, which presents Ivona as an almost totally silent catalyst whilst also taking sharp pot shots at status and the decadence in those in authority, goes mostly for nought thanks to a leaden translation (uncredited) and the style adopted by Mantzakos, which opts for poetic histrionics and victimhood.

The result, with a shaven headed Princess Ivona (Bjorn Dvori-Avraham) recalling a whey-faced Lindsay Kemp without the naughtiness or social critique, is more ponderous than `biting satire’.

Nonetheless, there are tantalising moments from Sturdy Beggars’ founder Alexander Andreou as Queen Margaret giving a Genetesque undertow to Gombrowicz’s musings about ritual, role playing and inner emotions.

Indeed, perhaps Mantzakos sees Ivona more as an allegory on difference and the persecution of gays rather than a mirror onto regal vices or a counterblast to upcoming royal nuptials. Hmm…

Queen Margaret: Alexander Andreou.
Chamberlain: David Bartlett.
King Ignatius: Brendan Jones.
Beggar/Chequers: Nicholas Templer.
Prince Philip: Christopher Hughes.
Cyprian: Benjamin Reeves.
Simon: Edward Parkes.
Isobel: Daniel Addis.
Ivona: Bjorn Drori Avraham.
1st Aunt: Sean Stephen Culhane.
2nd Aunt: Matt Garrill.
1st Lady: Christopher Bowyer.
2nd Lady: Tom Slatter.
Innocent: Ryan Davies.

Director: Kos Mantzakos.
Designer: Charlotte Randell.
Lighting: Gareth Howells, Tom Turner.
Sound: Marianna Roe.
Costume/Make-up: Josie Martin.

The Sturdy Beggars Theatre Company is a not for profit company run by found Alex Andreou, with Brendan Jones and Hugo Thurston. Ivona is part of their Brain Drain Season – Lost Gems by Eastern European Masters: Gombrowicz, Stratiev and Molnar.

2011-01-11 01:08:32

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