With the Listen / Touch / See: Polska Arts programme in Edinburgh now well underway, numerous reviews acknowledge the quality of musical performances at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Polska Arts in Edinburgh events are recommended as top picks by leading UK and Scottish journals and the press highlights a special role played out by art from Poland in reestablishing the quality of the Fringe Festival
The performance of Planet Lem at the Fringe’s Old College Quad is nr. 1 on the Fringe Top 15 list published by the local Edinburgh Evening News. The Skinny, one of Scotland's top culture guides, recommends Wojtek Ziemilski's Small Narration as one of the 15 MUST SEE shows. The Guardian lists Jarzyna’s staging of Macbeth: 2008 among its top picks of the Edinburgh International Festival, and introduces two Polish showings at Fringe’s Summerhall - Song of the Goat Theatre’s Songs of Lear, as well as the 24h performance from Wacław Miklaszewski are expected to bring the festival goers the unexpected. "I reckon this is the venue that could throw up some major surprises", states Lyn Gardner.
Natasha Tripney also lists Songs of Lear and the Small Narration in her Top 10 pick for the stage.co.uk. Her article for the magazine entitled International Exposure features a lengthy description of the programme within the context of the Edinburgh festivals, as well as a description of the work pursued by Paweł Szkotak, director of Teatr Biuro Podróży.
In a full-page critical article on the idea behind the Polska Arts programme, journalist Gareth K. Vile widely discusses the contrasts of the national traits that are specific to Polish and Scottish art. The text entitled Scotland vs. Poland takes up numerous Polish features at the festivals as exemples of what characterises Polish art. Among others, Vile discusses Puppet. The Book of Splendor, a new work from Paweł Passini, which is a contemporary oeuvre on the problems of evil, the status of the artist as god, and the intertwining of the sacred with the profane. Juxtaposing the wry filter of British productions with a serious stance of artists from Poland, the author states:
If Casablanca is a witty play on the film and cliches of drama, Puppet is a primal scream at the mysterious universe, deeply moral but ready to embrace degradation. (..) The various national strands take on their own character: British work tends to the script, Polish to the body and the geography of the stage and set.
Another text which acknowledges the role played out by quality art from Poland was published by the Herald Scotland. Mark Brown, who titled his article Saviour of the Fringe sees the return of Polish troupe Teatr Pieśń Kozła (Song of the Goat Theatre) as a sign of the revival of the festival’s spirit, which in the past years had gone through a change in character that was frequenlty judged as for the worse. The director of the Fringe, Rupert Thomson is ackonowledged for his efforts to make the name stand for significant artwork, and the performance from the Polish troupe is seen both as a direct response to the change in quality, and as a sign of this change. Brown states:
There can be no doubting the profundity or the artistic quality of the two shows which TPK are bringing to Summerhall next month. Macbeth (August 9-11) and Songs Of Lear (August 12-24) bring the group's very particular aesthetic (which is inspired by the Polish theatre master Jerzy Grotowski) to bear on two of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies.
Grzegorz Bral, the theatre’s director is quoted as saying "I chose to come to come back to Edinburgh because I met Rupert from the Summerhall venue. He explained to me that there is a big desire among many people in Edinburgh to change the Festival Fringe into something which is significant once again, rather than just being thousands of stand-up comedians and insignificant art. I trusted him when he said 'please come, because the Festival needs people who are honestly searching for a profound theatre.'"
In the aftermath of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, which has already come to a close, the musical events of the Polska Arts programme garner noteworthy acclaim. Two Scottish reviews acknowledge the Polish concerts. Herald Scotland’s Kenny Mathieson gives four stars to the gig from the Wasilewski Trio and delves on the particular style of performance by the young yet largely experienced Polish band. Mathieson writes:
Their usual mode of operation, though, involved an intricate and often very complex sense of group interaction, led by the pianist’s gift for constructing long and carefully structured solos, which in turn were every bit as thoughtfully supported by his colleagues in a way which went well beyond simple solo and accompaniment.
See the full article from Mathieson.
In a subsequent review for the Herald Scotland, Rob Adams comments on the show by Maciej Obara and his quartet. While pointing to technical difficulty and a rushed timing of the actual show, Adams has little doubt as to the quality of the concert given by Obara and his quartet. The journalist, who also awarded the musicians with four stars, comments in his article:
(...) the audience won't forget the gig in a hurry either, although that's more to do with the fascinating blend of thoughtfulness, freedom, passion, superb improvising skills and structural discipline that the quartet presented.
Editor: Paulina Schlosser
Source: scotsman.com, guardian.co.uk, stage.co.uk, The Skinny, press release