Brighton Fringe 2011
United by the 1976 football match between their home countries, Seyf and Dobrowolski discuss Subbuteo, girlfriends, swimming, and father-son relationships. Armed with a PowerPoint, embarrassing family photographs and footage of the game they embark on an exploration of political resistance, family eccentricities, and boyhood. Grab a pint, sit back and enjoy.
It’s hard to know where to start in explaining this delightful piece of performance. It’s not clearly theatre – and indeed one of the highly entertaining double act goes to some lengths to explain that he’s an artist, not an actor . It’s not a lecture – although there are slides and I feel as though I’ve learnt a huge amount about Polish history, Iranian politics and 1970’s football by the end of it. It’s a little like going to the pub with a couple of very well chosen friends of friends and so the Grand Central Bar at The Nightingale is a perfect venue.
There’s a very informal opening to the ‘show’. To our left as we enter is a ramshackle contraption called ‘Siberia’, the inspiration for which being a 1970’s Polish lavatory and we are invited, one by one, to sit in this wooden box with a curtain. As you sit down, you see that inside the pan below is a wind up gramophone that powers a small train. This revolves so that as you stick your head through a similar inverted hole above, your eyes are level with a panoramic 360ᵒ vista with the train travelling round and round. This gives a wonderful illusion of expanse and neatly sets up the breadth of scope that the unfolding hour is going to cover.
The two tour guides – because in the end I think that’s the best way to describe them, take turns to tell their story. Both are dressed in their respective country’s national football shirt and the hub of the performance is the 1976 Montreal Olympics match between Poland and Iran.
YouTube footage of this is shown at intervals through a narrative that reveals the two men’s relationship with this match. Seyf’s family are shown in pictures with some of the players, Dobrowolski’s main connection was his sticker collection. The 70’s was a bleak period for English football and the team qualified for neither the ’74 nor ’78 World Cups. So sticker books only gave space for 4 England stickers under the heading ‘Excluded Teams’. Poland on the other hand were far more successful, so to feed the young lad’s collecting addiction, he had to make the most of having a Polish father and for the first time in his life, get in touch with his ethnic roots. I’m somehow grateful to Bobby Charlton’s team for their poor performance at this time as otherwise this tale would have had no reason to take place.
I had wondered whether the play would be purely the vehicle for a boysy rant explaining the minutiae from a ‘we was robbed’ perspective. Instead it was a wonderfully inclusive quirky celebration of family and international relationships, and how actions both major – exile to Siberia, Iranian revolutions – and minor – learning chess, collecting train sets – set off chains of events that lead us to where we are and what we do in the present.
‘Poland 3 Iran 2’ is a colourful mixture of the profound and the mundane all regaled in an engaging, self deprecating style. History would be a thriving subject, with kids clamouring to get in, if lessons were delivered with such skill (and with such beautifully designed visual aids) as these two raconteurs display. And I would highly recommend this piece as one of those lovely festival activities where history and entertainment meld seamlessly together.