Scent of Chocolate

Polish Theatre Ireland presents 'Scent of Chocolate' by Radoslaw Paczocha. Photo: Maciej Staroniewicz

Polish Theatre Ireland presents 'Scent of Chocolate' by Radoslaw Paczocha. Photo: Maciej Staroniewicz

Timing is often everything. Not only is there a Polish theatrical invasion into Dublin these weeks, but there is also activity from within - and Scent of Chocolate by Radoslaw Paczochka, the innovative debut from the newly founded Polish Theatre Ireland, sees more connections emerge by way of the emigrant theme.

Many memories are triggered for Irish audiences: of parallel endeavours in recent Irish cultural history, when, during the 1980s in New York, London, Chicago and other cities where the Irish theatrical diaspora gathered, new experiments were fanned and came to life. The Irish Arts Centre in New York, although founded a decade earlier, blossomed in those years with new arrivals and energies. Reminders, too, of the legacy of emigration, so much a part of the Irish literary canon.

At the centre of this work is a family, that particular social unit which can both drive the impulse of emigration through economic necessity but which also can be shattered by the very experience designed to strengthen and transform it. Here, the family is at a crossroads because of the absent mother. She is the emigrant figure sending remittances - or, in these contemporary times, the temporary migrant, working hard in the USA to earn and create a future for her family. But back home, the family’s suspended lives are creaking with the effort of waiting for her return and the papered-over cracks of the family bonds are beginning to wear thin.

'Scent of Chocolate'. Photo: Maciej StaroniewiczWe see the frustrations of the put upon the eldest daughter Bogusia (Kasia Lech), who has adopted the matriarchal role; the hapless father with fading authority (Jacek Dusznik); the charming restlessness of Natalka (Alicja Jankowska), the younger teenage daughter; and, most centrally, the responsibility for the mentally challenged younger brother Misza (John Cullivan) who binds them together. He constantly seeks childish comfort in chocolate, and an imbedded memory of security and familiarity propels him to repeated watching of documentaries about elephants. This theatrical metaphor (the elephant herd’s “profound sense of family” as the voice over intones) might occasionally be stretched, but the real elephant in the room is more about absence than presence. For, in the manner of Chekovian characters longing for Moscow, Natalka and her siblings yearn for their mother’s return, for that catalyst of change which will invigorate their lives, dispel problems and in this case restore ease and domestic harmony. And though the others may be anxious for him, it is Misza who senses that danger to the fragile family may be at hand and ironically brings the family together to reassess other changes to their future.

Scent of Chocolate started life as a radio play and the authenticity and fluency of the dialogue which drives the play is testament to those origins. Director Anna Wolf has carefully and instinctively paced this dialogue for this stage adaptation. Her well attuned Polish and Irish ensemble follow her lead, and the comings and goings, both real and imagined, are managed well in Gabriel Peelo’s simple lighting design for the compact space of the Focus Theatre.

The production marks a cautious but welcome step into the new world of this fledgling company’s adopted country. The alternating of Polish and English performances cleverly draws on two communities and bring them together for a play that is universal and in some ways needs no translation. The choice of this particular play underlines Polish Theatre Ireland’s potential role in a wider and new Irish theatrical context as they add another perspective on the emigrant experience in Irish theatre.

Seona Mac RĂ©amoinn

  • Review
  • Theatre

Scent of Chocolate by Radoslaw Paczocha

28 Sept - 2 Oct, 2010

Produced by Polish Theatre Ireland
In Focus Theatre

Translated and adapted by Anna Wolf

Directed by Anna Wolf

Lighting Design: Gabriel Peelo

With: Kasia Lech, John Currivan, Jacek Dusznik, Oscar Mienandi and Alicja Jankowska