Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Bubble Revolution by Polish Theatre Ireland is a solo show about growing up in Poland during the fall of communism in the 1980s and 90s.
Queuing outside the theatre, we are given envelopes containing a memory of Poland in the 80s or 90s and a ration coupon, allowing us to take one sweet on the way in. One lucky person gets a communist dollar instead of a ration coupon, which wins a whole box of sweets. In Bubble Revolution, Wiktoria (Kasia Lech) tells a story about growing up in Poland before and after the end of communism. Under communist rule the shops are empty, and parents tell fairytales about Vladimir Lenin or warning against the perils of chewing bubble gum. Giant jars of Nutella brought back from West Germany and empty Coca Cola cans from Norway are the height of exciting. Alternating between anecdotes from her childhood and moments of a very different nature from adulthood, Wiktoria’s story is about entering the consumerist bubble… and watching it burst.
It’s a story about wanting what you can’t have, and when you finally do get it, realising that maybe it’s not what you wanted after all.
Memories of Poland form a major part of the show. There are a few specific references to Polish things or music, which are pretty meaningless for anyone who has no connection to Poland. The timeline of events could be a little hard to follow, as the narrative jumps and anecdotes are linked to school grade rather than political events. The first jump from childhood to adulthood stories (a love affair with an Italian man) comes out of nowhere and is quite confusing, as there are no lighting or technical changes to signal the transition. However, by the end of the play, these flash forwards became clear and the play seems better constructed than it did initially.
For the most part, Bubble Revolution is a very personal recollection, the fall of communism as seen through the eyes of a child – the political background barely features. The focus is on what exciting new things are becoming available in Poland. The conditions under which Polish children grew up during this time are eventually linked to stereotypes of Polish people living in the UK as EU migrants. It’s a stimulating play that will have particular resonance for people who know Poland well, but is still entertaining enough for the rest of us.