by Zosia Wand.
The Dukes (The Round) Moor Lane, Lancaster LA1 1QE To 12 February.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2pm.
Audio-described 8 Feb.
BSL Signed 12 Feb 2pm.
TICKETS: 01524 598500.
then Theatre By The Lake (Studio) Lakeside, Keswick CA12 5DJ 16-26 February 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 23 Feb 20pm.
Post-show Discussion 16 Feb.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 February.
A fresh view of the North West clogged-up by static drama.
A view from Lancaster’s Williamson Park (scene of The Dukes annual summer promenade show) looks towards Morecambe Bay, made notorious in 2004 when cockle-pickers, working illegally, were drowned. Zosia Wand’s new play isn’t about them, but does look at poverty and exploitation in an area normally considered simply one of outstanding scenery.
Shared with Keswick’s Theatre By The Lake, Wand’s milieu is the region’s sizeable Polish community, as well-established Pole Renata busily increases her prosperity through her café, and renting overcrowded property to poor Polish immigrants.
Performed at Lancaster in The Round, any sense of the play’s open landscapes has to be provided by audience memory or imagination. Scenery is confined to the café and Renata’s kitchen, each in one corner of the stage, the latter where kinder-hearted Ula prepares Polish food. Renata’s son Leo, meanwhile, is progressing in the law business. All goes well until he meets young Elka, one of his mother’s tenants.
He calls himself Daniel with her, distancing himself from rack-renting Renata. But this wouldn’t be a play if all weren’t eventually revealed. It would be a better play if the revelations were surrounded by more development in the characters. Generally here, the less people speak the more impact that’s made.
As when Leo and Elka meet on the treacherous sands and she begins dancing – a welcome expression of joy after his careful description of how quicksands – the topographical type, rather than the treacheries of personal relationships – operate.
At least that has documentary interest. Elsewhere the script overloads on plot information. while Renata’s first-half toughness edges later towards a comic crustiness, but more as contradiction than development. And just as the early information and cultural colourings of Polish life should be earning dramatic momentum, there come repeated explanatory retrospectives.
Joe Sumsion’s efficient production is well-acted, especially by Cristina Catalina, who shows Elka as strong-spirited as Renata, and Eithne Browne as the quietly sympathetic Ula. It’s fascinating to find a play that looks at a region through a particular, little-known community. But a strong idea and a lot of information need dramatic momentum and character development too.
Ula: Eithne Browne.
Elka: Cristina Catalina.
Leo: Curtis Cole.
Renata: Sarah Parks.
Director: Joe Sumsion.
Designer: Alison Heffernan.
Lighting: Brent Lees.
Sound/Composer: Mark Melville.
Choreographer: Jonny Hate.
Dramaturg: Stefan Escreet.