A bridge between reality and fiction, Edith Alibec’s multi award-winning adaptation of Aglaja Veteranyi’s autobiographical book, Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta, comes to the Gate Theatre. A fascinating and endlessly imaginative show, it follows a family of circus artists who flee the Communist regime in Romania during the 1960s in search of fame and glory in the West, in the hope of establishing a better life.
Among the caravans and the circus tents a family are caught between two worlds: the colorful, transfiguring high-top where the mother performs her death-defying stunts and the harsher reality of a nomadic life, where home is only to be found in your mother’s cooking. Told from the perspective of the youngest child, this lyrical darkly comic tale is the story of a family always on the road and always the foreigners.
Alibec witnessed first-hand the refugee crisis in Germany as she met with refuges and visited their social camps. Her adaptation seeks to highlight the vulnerability in being forced to leave home and trying to find a new place in the world. It explores what it is to feel foreign and isolated and how it feels when the place you live does not let you feel like you belong.
Edith Alibec commented: “I lived in Germany for three years, and in the first few months I did not find my place and I started to idealize a “home”. Romania, my home country, became more like a utopia. At the same time, the refugee crisis in Germany grew and I wondered how it must feel for them. I mean, it’s a choice for me to live in a foreign country, I chose to do that, but they’re being forced to flee their home and live in a foreign country, exactly like the play’s heroine. This show was born out of my need to talk about what does it feel like to not have a home. Far from being an ideological statement, this show is about being human and explores the hidden corners of the soul.”
With the ability to be staged in three different languages (English, German and Romanian), this versatile production has previously been performed in Bucharest (winner of the 2018 Bacău Fest Trophy, Actors for Actor Trophy and the Ştefan Iordache Onorific Prize), Zurich, New York, Stockholm and Germany. Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta has kindly been supported by Arts Council England.
Why the Child is Cooking in the Polenta is playing at the Gate Theatre from Wednesday 1 – Saturday 4 May.
Photo credit: Adi Bulboaca