Bubble Revolution

George Orwell once wrote a fairy tale in order to avoid accusations of criticising reality. His novella Animal Farm, though ostensibly a warning against a particular brand of Stalinist communism, might also be read as the struggles of some pigs and other animals. Somewhat similarly, the ‘fairy tale’ that is Bubble Revolution by Polish Theatre Ireland also provides a sugar-coated veneer to, conversely, the arrival of post-communist capitalism in Poland. With the future promising much, Kasia Lech charismatically presents the story of young Wiktoria, whose rose-tinted perception of life after communism leads to an onslaught of nostalgia for how things once were.

Certainly worth experiencing

Such is the desire in this piece to present Poland, and the Polish, as more than the “thieves, drunks [and] trouble-makers” that they are at times made out to be, that its reach extends even beyond the confines of the theatre, with the performer welcoming the audience outside the doors and encouraging us to form a line (queueing is part of the authentic communist experience, you know) and presenting every audience member with an envelope containing either a ration card or, for the lucky few, a communist dollar, entitling them to a greater confectionary-based reward than the rest of us. Despite only receiving a single piece of bubble-gum upon which to chew, the warm, conversational style of the piece was set.

In the early stages, the performance of Lech as Wiktoria draws us into her childhood in Poland in the eighties and nineties, with strong reference to the senses as particularly evocative agents of memory. As she recalls chewing Polish bubblegum, we, who are at that time chewing gum, feel a further connection to the piece. Leading on, her wide-eyed description of the pleasures of eating from a ‘huge jar of Nutella’, a treat which becomes something of a metaphor for the unfulfilled expectations of capitalism later in the piece, is bathos in the extreme, yet is enlightening in its suggestion of the joy to be found in such apparently simple pleasures.

At times, it is not fully clear quite what the “bubble revolution” is referring to in its entirety and the piece would be strengthened by foregrounding this. However, the play does undergo interesting development as the stage world becomes increasingly abstract, mirroring the fracturing hopes of the protagonist. Rich with political allusion, strong visual imagery and proficient technical details, the piece is certainly worth experiencing, though does not ever achieve quite the sense of revolution that it might.

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The Blurb

‘An interesting and thought-provoking look at the world post-communism, which begs the question, is there such thing as happy ever after?' (Irish Theatre Magazine). 55 years after Berlin Wall divided Europe, 27 years after communism collapsed, 24 years after Coca-Cola fridges appeared in Poland: a fairy tale about growing up under and after communism in Poland. It’s a story of a child wishing for an unlimited source of Nutella, a girl wanting to be Michael Jackson and a woman dreaming about love. It’s a journey through a magical land filled with colours, scents, and sounds of the past.

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