Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Chris has lovingly repaired his family Triumph Herald Estate so that he can drive it from his home in Colchester to Rome. Part investigation into his father’s account of his time as a Polish soldier in the Italian Campaign and part muse on consumerism, this show brings together car mechanics, classical civilisation and the fetishisation of possessions in a solo performance using old photos, new film and surprising mechanical objects. A feast of razor-sharp observations and bizarre confessions extending beyond the immediate subject matter to grasp at universal truths. Total Theatre, Poland 3, Iran 2.
Chris Dobrowolski expertly leads his audience through an autobiographical, mechanical journey in All Roads Lead to Rome. Using a combination of old photographs and film, his tale follows a trek from Essex to Rome in a newly restored 45-year-old Truimph Herald Estate.
Dobrowolski has a lovely, relaxed persona, comfortably ad-libbing through sirens and shouts on the street outside. He instantly puts the audience at ease and even encouraged one woman to move into a seat with a better view of his photographs.
This is an artist who clearly loves tinkering – not only has he re-built a car, but also makes visual artworks with moving parts, mainly from the bric-a-brac in his father’s old shed. The central relationship in All Roads Lead to Rome is that between Chris and his father; a Polish relic who fought in the Second World War and learnt his English on a building site.
Through the examination of this relationship the themes of the piece emerge – the banality of evil, Fascism, and consumer culture. A totally engaging thread is woven musing on how in the life-span of these two men, society has entirely embraced materialism and transformed from the difficult days of the 1940s, vividly illustrated by his father’s war stories.
The modern-day journey to Rome is full of highs and lows – beautiful, mountainous vistas and decrepit tumble-down towns with neo-fascist souvenir shops. Final ideas arise; how decency seems swept away in the name of profits and a strange repetition of a familiar arched M.
Ultimately, Dobrowolski has achieved what all true and great art should – transforming images and thoughts, giving us keys with which to unlock our perception of the everyday. For on the face of things, nothing could be more benign than a simple meal of burger and chips.
Due to the set-up of the large slides projected onto a screen in front of Dobrowolski there were often times when the edge of the light caught his face. This was unfortunately quite distracting, but potentially easily solved by adjusting the stage set-up.
Humour is also infused into All Roads Lead to Rome – which keeps the tone from becoming melancholy or affected, even though it deals with such weighty issues.
A simple, effective and intellectual piece, told with warmth and a twinkle.