Brit-Pol Theatre presents – for a limited run of 15 performances - its’ acclaimed production of:THE CARD INDEX by Tadeusz Rozewicz at BAC - Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London SW11 Box office: 020 7223 2223. 12th March to 28th March 2002. Tuesdays - Saturdays at 7.30pm. Sundays at 5.30pm

Translated by Adam Czerniawski
Additional scenes translated by Barbara Plebanek and Tony Howard
Directed by Peter Czajkowski.
Design by Steve Wilson. Lighting Design by Mark Doubleday. Music by Warren Wills.

Peter Pacey, Martin Bendel, Susannah Page, Richard Sandells, Peter Luke Kenny, Julius Barnett, Ria Knowles, Lawrence McGrandles Jnr., Fiona Carew, Eugene Williams.

Brit-Pol Theatre’s production of The Card Index has been invited to take part in the Time Out Critics’ Choice season at BAC. The play was staged at The White Bear Theatre as part of the Polish Cultural Institute’s Rózewicz Festival in May of last year. The first run of this new English production quickly sold out, making this a lucky chance for those who missed it and those who want to see it again!


'ferocious, surreal joyride through history, culpability and memory' TIME OUT

'the production on show is so startlingly modern, so challenging and so relentlessly hilarious it makes you wonder what writers, and audiences, of course have been doing' TIME OUT

'astonishingly good' 'outstanding' THE STAGE

'the original spirit of the Theatre of the Absurd in a contemporary British idiom.




'The Card Index' and its Polish author Tadeusz Rozewicz (b.1921) are little known in Britain - in fact the first staging of this play in this country was in June 2001, when it was shown at Kennington's White Bear Theatre Club as part of the Polish Cultural Institute's Rozewicz Festival. Thankfully, Time Out picked up on the production, and it is now being re-staged at BAC as the last show in the centre's Time Out Critics' Choice season.

The play, which is directed by Brit-Pol Theatre¹s artistic chief Peter Czajkowski, is quirky and shot through with an addictive sense of mischief, so I thought the following description might be appropriate. First, take a mix of the best of Beckett or Ionesco and t he cleverest of Brecht. Add an Eddie Izzard-style protagonist in pyjamas and on Prozac, and an all-singing, all-dancing, barber-shop back-up trio of (for example) Tom Waits, Beelzebub and the lead singer from Shawoddywoddy (wrong spelling, I'm sure), and you'll be on the right track as to what this fabulous production is like.

Intrigued? I hope so.

This wonderful play centres around a man who never leaves his bedroom. The 'card index' of the title could equally be translated as 'personal file', and what we see is a series of snapshots of episodes past, present and the two interwoven, as our hero attempts to make sense of and give order to his life. Random characters from his experiences and memories process through the sacred chamber of his bedroom, as if he is conjuring them up in his dreams - it's almost as if our protagonist has entered his experiences, thoughts, concerns and acquaintances into a giant slot machine, shut his eyes and then pressed 'play'.

True to the tone of much continental European drama written in the years following World War II, there is a lot of dark introspection and angst to this piece. More often than not, the dreamlike mishmash of events has a nightmarish feel, but don¹t let this deter you, as the humour, bright character acting and sharp script provide the perfect foil. Various dark autobiographical elements are sown into the play, as our hero remembers experiences that clearly take their cue from Rozewicz's boyhood of the 1920s, his time as a resistance fighter during World War II, the guilt of the post-war years and the heavy oppression of Stalin's communist rule.

The cast, some members of which played at The White Bear, all give tremendous performances. Peter Pacey's engaging hero/anti-hero (who is known by different names and as different ages to his various visitors, thus fudging his character and making him an 'any man') is commanding and masculine yet vulnerable. Ria Knowles' secretary is foxy yet no-nonsense, and Susanna Page does some hilarious female studies (great journalist take-off). Fiona Carew and Lawrence McGrandles Jnr also put in entertaining turns.
Special mention, however, should be made of the three, smart-suited, ghoulish 'Elders', who are frequently hilarious and always captivating. This seemingly deceased, barber-shop trio emerge from our hero's closet and provide witty accompaniments, both sung and unsung, to the action. Crazy wordplay, frantic wailing and some lovely close harmonies (listen out for Kenny¹s incredible, piercing falsetto voice) provide something for everyone.

I can't recommend this play highly enough. It's obvious why it's been chosen to feature in this special season of acclaimed fringe productions at BAC and it thoroughly deserves its place at the climax to the season. The writing is really clever and often very sharply self-consciously aware. Rozewicz makes good use of Brecht's so-called 'alienation' technique, in which members of the audience are constantly reminded that they are viewing a staged production and are not absorbed in real-life events. The play looks thoroughly modern, despite having been written in the 1960s. (The only thing that feels dated, in fact - and this is intentional - is Steve Wilson's rather shabby, weakly lit, beige-sodden boudoir of a set.)

Brit-Pol aim to create exciting, modern interpretations of Polish works, and they've done a grand job with this piece. 'The Card Index' went down an absolute treat with the audience on the night I attended and I'm sure that wasn't a one-off. Go and see it while you can. Fantastic viewing.

(Review by Clare Peel for Theatreworld Internet Magazine)

REVIEW FROM REVIEWS GATE BY Timothy Ramsden 17 March 2002

Dreaming the night away becomes a lifelong nightmare in Rozewicz's fantasy biography of a faceless bureaucrat.

In Polish, the title also means 'Personal File' and in the computer age (the play dates from 1960) it would be one that's been a serial victim of hacking. Central to Steve Wilson's aptly cosy, shabby set is a big bed. But our ironically named Hero has no privacy. A cupboard door slides open to let in the dead, while the door seems open to all.

Choice is denied this Hero; the play harks back to the Absurd and before that Expressionism in its flow of characters, real or fantasy, from the past who occur, and sometimes recur, making the Hero justify himself. Even the most innocent, a young German woman who takes the bedroom for a café and requires a cream bun, leads back to the grim days of Nazi occupation.

Peter Pacey's Hero becomes the all-purpose bureaucrat with a past he doesn't care to remember. Pacey's features take on a naivety that's perfect for the character. And Ria Knowles' severely-bespectacled secretary, waking up beside him in bed, has a matter-of-factness that balances the ever-changing events with an inscrutable normality.

Weirdest of all is a trio of ghostly, dust-clad Elders who enter to a discordant tritonal chant, followed at intervals by wild alliterative nonsense riffs. One of these emerges as the partisan our Hero shot, possibly by accident. No wonder looking back's not in favour: 'I've no time for memories. Come back on Wednesday,' he tells one visitor.

But memories have time for him and Peter Czajkowski's production catches the routine of dream imagery, the normality of nightmare. Only, this nightmare is the life our Hero has made himself, leading to eventual minor-key resolution as he kneels, surrounded by the memory cast, all composed on the great bed of his life.

Out of its period and political context the play doesn't have the instant force of a classic. But it naggingly provokes a sense of how night and dreams open unwelcome doors and create their own, unavoidable theatre, one where – as the Hero keeps complaining – you have to go on talking because this is the theatre.

Timothy Ramsden 17 March 2002 - WWW.REVIEWGATE.COM