• Amy Toledano

Why The Child Is Cooking In The Polenta Presented by Edith Alibec

What is it?

Adapted from Aglaja Veteranyi’s autobiographical book by the same name, this is the story of a young woman who has fled the Romanian Communist Regime with her circus performer family in order to find paradise in the Western World.

What's it all about?

A young girl (Edith Alibec) searches for God in the ground outside her trailer. The trailer that her and her family live in at the circus. Her Father, the clown and her Mother the acrobat who hangs from the big top by her hair. This girl can find anything with her imagination, like the ocean or any of the food that she wishes. But she is not allowed to leave her trailer and neither is her sister. Because if anyone finds out who they really are then they will be sent back to their country and her parents will be killed and then her and her sister will starve. When people ask her her name, she simply says "ask my mother". The girls spend their time waiting and hoping that they don't have to think about their mother falling to her death night after night and instead think about the pain of a child being cooked in a pot of polenta, since this feels like an easier image.

Jumping through time we learn that this girl wants to be a movie star and at the encouragement of her Aunt, believes that this is exactly what her future holds. But when she is sent to a language school by her Mother, things become clear. This school is not ready for a young girl full of dreams, but only encourages a life of selflessness and charity.

Not prepared for this the, now young woman joins the Vaudville with an act simply known as "The Body". This sensual dance is not what she wants to be doing but is getting her closer to her dream. When things turn violent, the young woman returns to her language school where one of her more compassionate teachers signs her up for acting classes. But at her audition we see that who this young woman is and where she has come from will always haunt and hinder her dreams and her future.

How did it make me feel?

Brilliantly acted by Edith Alibec, we truly get a real feel for all the characters throughout the show. However the story itself can get muddled and it is still unclear even in the final moments where we are and where the character is going next. There is a strangeness to the character of the young girl, and while there are moments that are incredibly haunting there are also times where the atmosphere feels serious but the audience finds themselves laughing.

Creating images of the people that she has met, the things she yearns for (such as the ocean) and the places she has been, comes easily for Alibec. as her ability to transform herself is truly remarkable. We are eventually left with a sense of dreaminess even after the show has ended.

Where Is It Playing?

The show is performed at the Gate Theatre Notting Hill. A good space for the lovely sound and lighting that gives this piece extra depth and atmosphere, however not so good as Alibec spends much of her time downstage on the floor which makes it difficult for anyone who is not sitting in the front row to see her at all.

Anything Else?

The show is a journey that is challenging and interesting. Alibec's performance is wonderful and breathes a new life into this complex and fairytale-like story.

Amy x

Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta is playing at the Gate Theatre until the 4th May 2019.

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