Friday, 19 November 2010

Play it again, Samuelek

Coming out of the Palace of Culture yesterday evening, someone murmured "Warsaw by night!", an abbreviated quotation from the TV series Alternatywy 4, "Warsaw by night, OK?" said in English. Looking out, the neon shop signs showed Marks and Spencer, TK Maxx and C&A. Which country were we in? There was one Polish shop name, which I forget, but even this was an English language name.

We were in Warsaw to see 'Zagraj To Jeszcze Raz, Sam' at the 6th Floor Theatre in the Palace. I had thought that my limited language abilities would make a Woody Allen based play too difficult for me, but the plot and movement of the characters are very easily understood and the imaginary characters - Bogart and assorted women - are very well presented so they're not confusing. The plot? Basically, it's a farce about a social and romantic inadequate trying to find a new sex partner. Many of the jokes - the audience had a good laugh - did go over my head, but I did manage a few smiles - I tend not to laugh anyway.

What was particularly pleasing was that I didn't get the feeling of this being a reworking of a Woody Allen stereotype of his own cliche. Indeed it was nagging me through most of the play who Kuba Wojewódzki, taking Allen's part, reminded me of: not Allen, not Benny Hill, oh yes, Rik Mayall the British comic actor in Zwariowany Fred/Drop Dead Fred and many TV series. It didn't quite work for me, but it got a good laugh anyway. Anna Cieślak was best as the best friend's wife and I was going to praise Michał Żebrowski, the best friend, for not playing his normal handsome hunk role, but then I saw the theatre's web site saying he was supposed to be handsome. Wrong again!

Anyway, if you're asked to go along and are worried about not understanding, don't (worry that is). If you're happy to sit quietly when others around you are laughing loud, the spectacle and your friendly companions will make it worthwhile.

I'd forgotten everything about the 1972 film apart from its existence. If you want a reminder just click here. This site remarks on the resemblance between Kuba and Woody Allen in the poster, but that is just the advertising slant on it. See the theatre website for actual pictures of the play.

Since I mentioned Alternatywy 4, I must also give a plug to this. It regularly appears on Polish television and is a great delight. Polonia sometimes has it with English subtitles, but it's enjoyable without them. It's basically a very funny satire on Polish life at the beginning of the eighties, based on residents of a new block of flats in Ursynów in Warsaw. The English Wikipedia website entry describes it as satirising communist rule, but don't worry, it could as easily have been made by dedicated communists as anti-communists so there is no deep message to worry about.

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