20190913 Teatr Polski w Poznaniu Bliscy Nieznajomi f/ Marek Zakrzewski

Restaurant Ukraine – Close Strangers Festival


Restaurant Ukraine is a deliberately disjointed affair. Made up of two performers mixing spoken word, dance, rap and political commentary it is more hit than miss, though it does feel occasionally scattergun in its approach.

A two-hander, the set is based on an autopsy table (which contains an unexpectedly innocent surprise) which the performers dance around, lounge on and even at one point simulate sex on. The stage is otherwise stripped bare, but for the costumes and the women themselves.

With their matching slicked-back hair and model looks there was a sense of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” models about the performers (a reference considerably older than they were). They often stripped to their pants – which had pictures of cats on them. A reference to Pussy Riot and dig at Putin? A comment on Donald Trump’s infamous comments? Both? I am not sure. It may simply have been a comment on the historically blurred line of men who see actresses as prostitutes and as their tools.

Overall both actresses delivered  performance was strong, confident, feminist and as feisty as f**k. At an hour it kept the audience interested and engaged even as its edgy avant-garde style kept us on our toes.

Themes covered included patriarchy, political corruption, personal corruption and a loss of sense in a world gone mad, all of which was well amplified through the action and the performers’ confidence was not misplaced in their ability to hold our attention for an hour, to shock and to capture.

This play also has an element of self-reference. It opens on the actresses worrying about a grant they have been given to write a play about corruption that they are unable to do. They discuss keeping the money – itself an act of corruption. Or is it an act of liberation?

This is unflinching art. It asks a lot of both audience and performers and while it may sometimes leave us without answers, it raises both hackles and questions in a provocative and interesting way.