Why the Child Is Cooking in the Polenta at the Gate Theatre
Edith Alibec has a lot riding on her shoulders with this adaptation of the famous Romanian novel of the same name, which follows a family of circus artists fleeing Communist Romania for a better life in the West. The book is strongly autobiographical to author Aglaja Veteranyi’s life and Alibec reframes the story in her own personal context as an immigrant to Germany, where she witnessed the refugee crisis and visited camps. The result of her journey over the years has resulted in a remarkable adaptation of Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta, befitting her extraordinary capabilities as a performer as well as a writer and human with firsthand experience.
The show is told from the perspective of a child coming of age along the road, who we follow from home to school to the circus. Despite this framing device, the storytelling is incredibly dense, sometimes so much so that it’s possible to lose sight of the vivid picture she paints of her family. There’s an intense amount of “My mother…”, “My father…” as a prefix to the context of her narrative as we learn what food they liked, how they dressed, how they felt, pretty much everything that shapes our understanding of Eastern European life in the 60s and 70s. The idiosyncrasies of this family, coupled with a strong engagement with the social and historical context of the country in which it’s set, makes it feel like Jodorowsky on stage, a work akin to Santa Sangre.
There’s a real melancholy to the broken links between the family, which even entail domestic abuse, in between their flamboyant exhibitions as circus artists. With such an epic scope explored in a relatively short amount of time (70 minutes) and entirely inhabited by one performer, this production can be truly appreciated on a meta level if not easily understood. Edith Alibec’s performance is beyond revelatory.
Photo: Adi Bulboacă
Why the Child Is Cooking in the Polenta is at the Gate Theatre from 1st May until 4th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.