They was written by Polish writer Stanislaw Witkiewicz in 1920, in response to the Socialist Revolution. Witkiewicz was a playwright, novelist, painter and philosopher in interwar Poland and is the most frequently performed Polish playwright in global theatre. This production has a short run at Theatro Technis in Camden, produced by Dorota Krimmel and directed by Sharon Willems.
The show begins with sinister masked characters setting the stage before Spika (Dorota Krimmel) and Balandash (Giorgio Galassi) enter. Spika is an actress at the height of her career and Balandash, a wealthy art collector, is her lover. They argue about art and theatre and the respective power of men and women, surrounded by Balandash’s collection of modern art.
The servants enter and let them know that the empty house next door is now occupied by a mysterious group of people and one of them is at the door. It soon becomes clear that the new neighbours are not keen to make friends; they are secret organisation on a mission to destroy free art and theatre, and their next targets are Balandash and Spika. What follows is a battle of words, sometimes hard to follow, as the mysterious ‘They’ state their cause and the artists defend their livelihoods. The author was a supporter of individual spirits against mechanisation and automation and makes it clear who the good guys are here, although both Balandash and Spika have their flaws.
There is a large cast of twelve but many of the actors don’t have much to do; this is a shame as they seem to be talented performers. I found the second half more engaging than the first with some nice choreography and an unexpected moment that made me jump. There is a lot of social and political commentary in this play, sadly some of it was lost in the translation for me. I felt that some of the best moments came from the use of the anonymous masks and the projection from hidden cameras providing a sense of being watched.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
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