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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

(Click here and here for our original Edinburgh Fringe reviews)

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Review - Stefan Golaszewski - Bush 2009