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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Stefan Golaszewski Plays
Bush Theatre       Winter 2009-2010

Proving that engrossing theatre doesn't require grand staging or special effects, Stefan Golaszewski just stands on an all-but-bare stage and delivers a pair of self-written monologues that each create a reality that envelops and enchants you.

As a point of reference, Americans might think of Garrison Keillor, Brits of Alan Bennett, a key difference being that Golaszewski's performance contributes significantly to both the realism and the entertaining quality of the stories.

Although not given titles here, the two monologues were originally performed separately, at the Edinburgh Fringe and on the road, as 'Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About A Girl He Once Loved' and 'Stefan Golaszewski Is A Widower'.

In the first, the fictional Stefan remembers and relives a life-changing event as, at age 18, he met a wonderful girl in a pub, had a whirlwind romance, and lost her. The second jumps to the future, that Stefan looking back from 2056 at his forty years with the wife who has just died.

The writing in both pieces is excellent, the first a lovely fairy tale alternately touching and comic, the second with a darker tinge, as the widower's true feelings slip through his facade of mourning.

(The second is actually a quite sophisticated bit of writing, as we never leave the speaker's consciousness, but sense colours he himself is not aware of.)

Much of the power comes from the never-forced evidence that the playwright has created an entire reality in his mind - the first narrator can describe in passing a friend's girlfriend's mother, while the second drops casual allusions to historical events, TV shows and fads that are part of his past, if not ours.

And much comes from Golaszewski's ability to conjure up images and turns of phrase that are wholly within character but still heart-stopping.

The overwhelmed 18-year-old realises 'I've got more things to say than my tongue has room for,' and when asked for a kiss literally opens up a suitcase full of Yesses, while the widower remembers the congregation at their wedding standing at the bride's entrance 'like birds surprised by a gun' and speaks of a jewel 'stammering in the light.'

As actor, Golaszewski instantly evokes and then sustains both the bright-eyed wonder of the callow lad encountering perfection and the pain of the adult remembering it, both the real pain of the widower and the sense of an inveterate coldness that underlies and undermines it.

And not least of the pleasures of this evening is that, at the tiny Bush Theatre, you are not likely to be more than six feet from the performer, and thus quite likely to find yourself absorbed into the reality he creates around his fictional selves.

Gerald Berkowitz

Here are our reviews of the two plays as they first appeared in Edinburgh:

Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About a Girl He Once Loved Pleasance 2008

This might have been an unlikely winner of a coveted first week Fringe First, but it fully deserves the award. In many ways, Stefan Golaszewski's strength is in his carefully cultivated artlessness.Again and again, he deliberately chooses the wrong word or phrase, often accompanied by a pause for the realistic effect to sink in. This gives his tale a true feel of lived experience. The story is simple enough. The 18-year-old Golaszewski is having a night out with his pals and the intensely dislikeable Jenna-Louise when a perfect 10 comes into the pub. He sidles up and, after seducing her with a pack of pork scratchings, they embark on a speeded up love affair that lasts no more than 24 hours. The writer/performer's strength is in persuading his audience that every word that he says and every action that he describes actually happened. This is a rarer talent than one would imagine, as is proved far too often by pale imitations throughout Edinburgh. By the end, you really care about the fate of this insecure youngster and the lovely Betty. Indeed, it is just a pity that she was indisposed, as every man present would love to meet such a rare and charming beauty. Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About a Girl He Once Loved may not have the snappiest title in town but it is amongst this year's highlights. Philip Fisher

Stefan Golaszewski is a Widower Traverse 2009

In 2008 Stefan Golaszewski wrote and performed a monologue about a girl he may have known years ago and the life they might have led. This year he projects himself into the future, imagining a fictional Stefan in 2056 thinking about the wife he lost after forty years together. As the widower grieves and relishes the warm memories, hints creep in - activities not shared, dislike of her friends, resentment of an old boyfriend - that things were never as rosy as he likes to believe, or wants us to believe. Sustaining that double vision is the core of Golaszewski's monologue and, though it occasionally wavers, the portrait of a cold and bitter man that ultimately emerges is chilling, as when he actually gets satisfaction from her terminal illness because it means she is completely dependent on him. Surrounding this central picture are other pleasures, as the speaker makes casual topical references to what is to us the future, demonstrating that the author has imagined an entire world around his characters, and as he creates verbal images of striking beauty or power - recalling the bride's entrance at their wedding, he says 'Like birds surprised by a gun, everyone stood.' As a performer Golaszewski does full justice to his writing, maintaining the cheery, confident image of the public man while guiding us behind the facade to glimpses of the ugliness beneath. Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of The Stefan Golaszeski Plays - Bush Theatre 2009


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