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A Time to Reap, Royal Court

Anna Wakulik
Directed by Caroline Steinbeis

★★★★

Pros: This is a sensitive, honest story about a woman, her friend, his father and the impact of the changing political landscape of Poland through the nineties.

Cons: The play deals with issues involving Catholicism and abortion which some may find difficult to remain impassive about. It gets tough towards the end and left me feeling exhausted.

Our Verdict: Wakulik possesses a special quality in her writing and this play has an ingenuous beauty that humanises a controversial and complex topic. This is really worth seeing.

Courtesy of The Royal Court

A Time to Reap is the story of three people, Marysia, a woman growing up in a small town in rural Poland, her childhood friend Piotr and his father Jan. It is a story about the complexities of their relationships, complicated by abortion and Catholicism. The story spans a time of political change in Poland, when the state became entwined with the church. I was apprehensive about this production as it always makes me a little nervous when a play tackles such emotive and controversial topics. I needn’t have been – although this play confronts the issues head on, it does so in a human, non- judgemental way. The themes are explored in a very real sense, as the story unravels the question of abortion and the value of religious beliefs is considered in the context of the people affected.

This is the real beauty brought to the stage by writer, Anna Wakulik. Whilst there is no concession to sensitivities surrounding the issues, there is also a lack of emotive indulgence or soapbox rhetoric. We are led gently through the intricate labyrinth of one woman’s story and the two men in her life, and this then cleverly reflects a vision of the wider issues. The naivety of growing up in a small rural town creates an understanding of the wider impact of a religious state. As we get further away from Niepokalanów toward Warsaw and then on to London, the contrast between cultures is exposed. Marysia’s innocence and the way both Piotr and Jan try to capitalise on it tells the story of the ‘old ways’and beliefs versus the new westernised future. And Marysia’s story of pregnancy and abortion is a simple one of misplaced trust, in the people she loves and in the faith she was raised. This play is beautifully honest and although there are so many complexities between the characters, their religion and their actions, it is brought to an ingenuous simplicity by the woman affected by it all.

The characters are very believable and wonderfully cast. Sinéad Matthews, as Marysia, portrays her innocence to a tee. That said, after an hour and a half, her tone gets a little wearing as her delivery is too constantly earnest. Owen Teale is wonderful as Jan, bringing obstinacy and disillusion to a character who is firmly rooted in the time before 1993, the date the anti-abortion bill was signed. Max Bennett underpins the rebellious Piotr with a vulnerability which results from alienation. The staging is dramatic and as we expect from the Royal Court, the production values are wonderfully high. Toward the end though, the content gets heavy going and I was thoroughly exhausted when the lights came up. It’s a poignant but not dramatic ending – I felt it grind to a halt and wonder whether this is intentional.

A Time to Reap is a sensitively written but to-the-point play about a ‘hot political topic’ in Poland – religion and abortion. But it is so much more than that – it is a beautifully honest story of a woman, her friend and his father, their relationships and the impact the changing political landscape had on all their lives through the 90’s. Though it was hard going toward the end, I would recommend it and I really hope to see more of Wakulik’s wonderful writing in the future.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

A Time To Reap runs at Royal Court until 23rd March 2013
Box Office: 02075655000 or book online at
http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/a-time-to-reap/?tab=1

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