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The Stefan Golaszewski Plays

Bush Theatre, London 
2 December 2009   9 January 2010
 

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Cast List
 
Written and performed by Stefan Golaszewski
  
Directed and designed by Phillip Breen
Produced by Stefan Golaszewski and Richard Jordan Productions Ltd.
in association with the Bush Theatre and United Agents

   



Selected Reviews

DAILY TELEGRAPH 

by Charles Spencer
 
I can’t pretend I trudged over Shepherd’s Bush Green with any great enthusiasm after a lonely Quarterpounder with cheese meal in the local McDonald’s. A comedian I’d never heard of delivering two hour-long monologues didn’t sound like my idea of fun. What I wanted was to be sitting, warm and cosy at home, with a mug of tea and listening to Alfred Brendel’s superb recordings of Haydn piano sonatas.
 
I emerged from the theatre two hours twenty minutes later feeling elated, moved, and wanting to shout this show’s praises from the rooftops. Stefan Golaszewski, in his late twenties and a former president of the Cambridge Footlights, is a very special talent indeed.
 
The first play, set in 1999, when Golaszewski was 18, is a semi-autobiographical piece about falling in love for the first time with a girl he meets down the pub and spends an enchanted evening with at the Walthamstow dog track.
 
The second piece is set in 2056, as Golaszewski imagines he is in his seventies and mourning the wife he loved for most of his adult life. He doesn’t get made up as, or impersonate, an old man, but as he describes a long, loving but also turbulent marriage, there is an emotional truth and maturity about both writing and acting that powerfully hits home. Seen together, this double-bill about first and last love captures a truth that those like me in middle age know only too well. We may look older as the years roll by, but inside we feel almost exactly the same as we did in our vanished youth.
 
The first piece captures the thrill and wonder of young love – the adrenalin charge, the relief that anyone can find you attractive, the throbbing sexual desire – with wit, wisdom and passion. The second, describing experiences which might appear to be beyond Glaszewski’s personal knowledge, is almost equally persuasive. Both pieces contain a cruel twist, or rather a malign stroke of fate, that it would be a crime to give away but which add some exceedingly dark shadows, and both are superb on the subject of sex – frank, even graphic, but full of truth, tenderness and delight.
 
Stefan Golaszewski, or perhaps more accurately the character he plays, is a bit laddish, a touch nerdish, and in both pieces clearly an obsessive, as he gives unsparing accounts of the torture of sexual jealousy. The confidence of his performance and the uncensored emotional truth of his writing, are truly exceptional. And while the show is both funny and exhilarating in its celebration of love, there is no sentimentality here. As the old song says, and Golaszewski graphically demonstrates, “Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars...”
 
 
THE INDEPENDENT 

by Paul Taylor
 
Stefan Golaszewski has been making a name for himself – replete with spelling difficulty – at the last two Edinburgh Festivals with monologues that, separately performed at first, have now come to London as a dramatic diptych. Various people had told me that I would 'love' this guy's work. The stubborn adolescent in me jibs, of course, at the thought of being so predictable in one's responses (even when I have had no qualms about parading them in a national newspaper for more than 20 years). Also I had the idea that Golaszewski was a stand-up comedian and, with a few honourable exceptions (pre-eminently Stewart Lee and Frankie Boyle, who strike me as being every bit as funny and radical as bona-fide playwrights), I view the breed of male stand-up rather as women must regard insensitive lovers: that's to say, as self-obsessed bores who jab away at you relentlessly, expecting an audible reaction every few seconds.
 
So it is wonderful to report that I didn't just 'love' The Stefan Golaszewski Plays, I adored them. Still ridiculously young, Mr G adds insult to injury by being not only an indecently talented writer but also the high-definition performer of his own semi-autobiographical material. A former president of Cambridge Footlights, he has done stand-up in his time and is best known as a member of the very funny sketch group, Cowards. But with this diptych, he ups the ante, and then some.
 
His persona has terrific stage presence with the glittery, slightly mad stare of a youth in which the autistic and the artistic are in trenchant tension. He's both a regular-guy nerd and a nuclear reactor of hyperaesthetic response to the world. He's a slacker and proto-visionary; clever as they come, but you wouldn't necessarily want him on the jury if you were up for trial. He's Peep Show and a highly original form of urban pantheism.
 
He also has an instinctive sense of dramatic structure. These two monologues are bound together by both the strongest lashings of thematic rope and the slenderest of subtle filaments. Stefan Golaszewski Speaks About a Girl He Once Loved is an intoxicated and intoxicating gasp of remembrance about first love. The persona may be a bored gap-year student who gets off by stealing a mate's packet of crisps at the pub, but when a slightly older girl swims into his ken, he becomes like William Blake with a permanent hard-on. Humorously, and with a strong feel for proportion even as it traces the contours of gloriously over-written rapture, Golaszewski captures how first love (especially, perhaps, if conducted at Walthamstow dog track) is like suddenly acquiring an extra sense, or as his persona endearingly puts it, 'It feels like it must have felt like to be the first guy to wear glasses'.
 
In the devastating second monologue, Golaszewski reappears ostensibly only slightly older, spiffed up in white suit and chocolate coloured shirt. But in this piece, he has artfully projected him into both a personal and planetary future. From the wittily sketched-in perspective of 2056, he plays a man who gradually emerges as a widower who looks back at a materially rich marriage (he made a killing on The Bill) that was crucially blighted by an event that I must not give away. Vacuum-packed in this man (for better and worse) is the boy in the first monologue. In a series of beautifully arranged surprise detonations, the piece brilliantly nails the kind of 24/7 husbandly devotion that is also an egregious form of neglectful inattention to the real needs of the beloved.
 
Mr G must go at his own pace; but, speaking selfishly as a consumer, the next Stefan Golaszewski play can't come soon enough.
 


 
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo by Pete Le May.
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
 
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo by Pete Le May.
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
 
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo by Pete Le May.
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
 
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo by Pete Le May.
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
 
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo by Pete Le May.
Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
 

Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
  

Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
  

Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
  

Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
  

Stefan Golaszewski. Photo © Pete Le May
   
  

  

 
 

 
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